Updated: Sep 17
Something dark and evil lurks in our oceans. Hint: it's not the shark.
Hollywood really does a great job of scaring people into staying out of the water (ahem, possibly guilty) but in reality sharks are not the ones to fear. They are actually major players in our ecosystem because as apex predators they maintain the species below them in the food chain and serve as an indicator for ocean health. They help keep balance in the ocean by removing the weak and sick thus ensuring species diversity. Wait, what? We need sharks? what about the man eating kind?
Great whites, tiger sharks and bull sharks are considered to be the most dangerous to humans although combined they were only responsible for 6 human deaths last year. You are more likely to be killed by just about any other animal. Actually, you're more likely to be taken out by a vending machine, a hot dog or even your own bed than by shark attack. In contrast, humans kill anywhere from 100 million to 273 million sharks per year. Even on the conservative end of that estimate, that means humans kill over 11,000 sharks per hour. By the time you finish reading this, another 500 sharks will have been slaughtered at the hand of humans. Ironically enough, the death is far from humane.
The most common reason for killing sharks is for the much sought after fins for shark fin soup. This Asian delicacy is eaten for status, costing more than $100/bowl. According to renowned chef, Gordon Ramsay, the soup has no flavour and is best described as a gelatinous goo. Okay, not his exact words but close enough... He investigated the slippery world of shark finning in Asia and Costa Rica in 2011 and what he found was shocking. Although the industry (which is decimating the world's shark population and damaging the ecosystem) is supposed to be regulated, the laws are not well enforced, allowing an unknown number of sharks to be killed for nothing more than their fins. His video footage shows sharks being beaten over the head to subdue them enough to cut the fins off and then the rest of the fish is discarded alive to die a horrible death by drowning. He described the activity as the worst case of animal cruelty he's ever seen and returned home after filming to educate his fellow restauranteurs, challenging them to stop serving shark fin soup.
A large part of the problem is an apparent lack of education around shark finning among restaurant goers but thanks to voices like Ramsay and organizations like Shark Trust, this social and environmental issue is improving, just not quickly enough.
How You Can Help
The most obvious way is to say no to shark fin soup. We vote with out dollars and if there is no demand, the practice will die. We saw Rob Stewart's Sharkwater film in 2010 and felt compelled to help these misunderstood creatures. In honour of the late Mr. Stewart and his passionate work, we highly recommend you watch the Sharkwater series and then continue to educate others. There are some great organizations who offer ways to support sharks via donations, volunteer opportunities, education etc. Please do what you can to help not only the sharks but our entire ecosystem before it's too late.