Please beware of shark… imagery in this post; it is graphic.
With the countdown to Shark Week (beginning July 5), and the 40th anniversary of Jaws (June 20), two stories of shark bites near the shores where I live, and today’s news that Texas has banned shark fin trade – I figured today is a good day to talk sharks.
First, it needs to be clear that in 2014, across the globe, sharks accounted for 3 human deaths, and last year, humans accounted for between 100 million and 273 million shark deaths, according to a study in the journal Marine Policy – the wide margin of error is due to the difficulties in monitoring the legal and illegal markets. To get your head around this – take a look at this graphic: http://ripetungi.com/shark-attack/.
Most bites are cases of mistaken identity, where the shark takes a nip and the flavor’s not right, so swims away. While I am not a fan of tourist traffic and pollution, our town, and many industries across the globe rely on beach and watersports to support their communities and their livelihoods; so please don’t cancel those beach plans! Just swim smarter – avoid piers and other areas where fish congregate, definitely don’t swim near fishing spots, and do a little research about the types of sharks near your destination to find out when they are likely prowling for snacks (all sharks don’t eat at dusk, as is oftentimes reported).
Sharks are the oceans’ apex (top) predators. As you can imagine, a healthy population of apex predators (in any ecosystem) is vital to the survival of the whole system. Currently a third of shark species are threatened with extinction – according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
According to PEW Environmental Trust, there are about 20 nations that account for 80% of the world’s shark catch, and the current top 3 (Indonesia, India, Spain) account for 35% of that total. The other 7 leaders are currently Taiwan, Argentina, Mexico, Pakistan, the United States, Japan, and Malaysia. Many of these countries have full or limited bans on shark finning, but regulation is difficult, especially where shark fishing is legal.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which aims to control trade of threatened species lists eight shark species and all manta rays in its Appendix II, however there’s a lot of ocean out there and not that many folks tasked with checking in on all those fishing boats.
Just last month, raids at the port of Manta, Ecuador found 200,000 shark fins that were on their way to be illegally exported to Asia. Those 200,000 fins were sliced from about 50,000 sharks whose finless bodies were then tossed overboard to sink and die.
Affluent Chinese yen for shark fin soup is the primary culprit in the finning industry. Shark fin soup is associated with prestige in that culture, and valued at about $100 USD per bowl. Yet, surprisingly, many in China don’t know the practice that is required to bring shark fin soup to their tables, nor do they realize its health risks (high levels of mercury and other toxic substances are common in these apex predators).
You may be surprised to hear that the report out of Texas today makes that state just the just the 10th state to pass laws banning the shark fin trade here in the U.S. You thought we were more civilized than this, didn’t you?
Action and Source Stuff
Shark Fin Soup On the Menu Near You (in case you’d like to suggest a menu edit): https://awionline.org/content/restaurants-currently-offering-shark-fin-soup
NOAA: US law – Int’l Action: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ia/iuu/msra_page/msra.html
Ecuadore Seizes Huge Illegal Shark Fin Hual: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-32926068