Sharks may pose danger to human. In films, they are portrayed as monsters of the deep which attack and devour human beings. But in real life, the opposite is what happening. Sharks are mercilessly captured for their precious assets – their fins!
Shark finning refers to the harvesting and removal of fins from sharks regardless of their age, size, or species. The shark, most often still alive, is then disposed to the sea. Unable to swim, the shark sinks toward the seafloor where it dies a slow death, being gently eaten alive by other fishes. Up to 99% of the shark is thrown away. The activity happens at sea so that fishers only have the fins to deliver. Moreover, shark meat has low value and therefore transporting the bulky shark is not worth the cost. One pound of dried shark fin can retail for $300 or more. Hence, shark finning is a multi-billion dollar industry.
Sharks fin is most usually utilized as main ingredient for a famous soup, although it can be used for traditional cures as well. It is a popular delicacy in China, and is eaten in Chinese restaurants around the world. The soup is only valued for its taste and not really for its nutrition. It contains almost no Vitamin A, but slightly more iron, zinc, riboflavin, and phosphorus than normal vegetable soup. There are claims that shark fins prevent cancer or treat osteoarthritis, but there are no scientific bases to these. To some extent, shark fin soup may cause sterility in men due to mercury content.
Despite these, information gathered from the Hong Kong trade in fins revealed that the market is approximated to be growing by 5% a year. The high price of the soup attracts so much attention and impresses guests and celebrations. Hong Kong handles at least 50% and possibly up to 80% of the world trade in shark fin, with the major suppliers being Europe, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, United States, Yemen, India, Japan, and Mexico.
Shark finning has indeed increased over the past decade. This may be due to the increasing demand for the commodity, improved fishing technology, and improved market economics. Every year, 100 million sharks are being killed for this industry. Some species have reduced by over 90% over the past 20-30 years. According to a 2010 BBC report, the enormous demand for shark fin soup in Asia has been blamed for the death of nearly 300,000 sharks off Brazil since 2009.
Several countries have shark-finning legislation. Ironically, many countries are also feasting on the profits derived from the industry. But this is not a question of who gains the most in this business. It is an issue of moral obligation to the community and to nature. How much in this planet can we sacrifice to fill ourselves?
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