As viewers gather round their television screens for Shark Week, people are increasingly paying attention to shark conservation efforts, and the greatest threats out there to these ocean predators. One of these looming threats to shark populations is the increasingly popular shark fin soup, traditionally served in Asia but making rounds in the United States as well.
Shark fin soup is considered a delicacy, and bowls of soup can cost upwards of $40, with individual fins ranging from $278 to $848 per pound. However shark fin soup is not integral to any community in the United States, and even the vendors in various metropolitan Chinatown’s have been fully supportive of banning the product. The greatest issues with shark fin soup are international, with advanced fishing procedures drastically cutting shark populations.
Illinois has recently become the first the first inland state to ban the sale, trade and distribution of shark fins. Four other states have followed suit, right in the wake of research demonstrating that the fins that go into the popular soup are often from threatened species of sharks. The study was compiled by the Field Museum, and was conducted by having survivors of shark attacks who now support conservation collecting soup samples across the country. The research determined that in 14 major cities at-risk species of sharks were found.
More than 73 million sharks are killed annually, and most to support the global shark fin industry. In particular hammerhead shark populations are down 70%; the scalloped hammerhead shark was among those found in samples of soup. This testing confirms that a huge number of sharks are being killed for their fins, and the United States’ consumption of shark fin soup is heavily contributing to this.
However signs of progress are happening abroad as well, the Pew Environmental Group began an international shark campaign that has already worked with Palau, the Maldives, Honduras, the Bahamas, Tokelau and the Marshall Islands in creating national shark sanctuaries. China also recently announced that it would stop serving shark fin soup at official banquets.
While many view sharks as the primary predator of the oceans, the truth is that humans have taken that role long ago. Sharks continue to have an image problem and their importance to underwater ecosystems in paramount. Ultimately, we eat more sharks now more than ever before, and a species that has survived for longer than the dinosaur may soon be endangered.
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