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The Horrors of Finning

In the third drawer down in my dresser, I have a shirt with a shark fin and the word “finning” inside a red circle and slash. Very few people understand what this means. The ones who do know wish they didn’t have to.

Finning is arguably one of the most inhumane, and vile offenses against the environment we have seen in a long time. It consists of catching live sharks from the ocean, and slicing off their fins, frequently while they are still alive. It doesn’t matter to the aggressors what type of shark they’ve caught. It doesn’t matter if they’re bycatch – the term used to describe marine animals that are caught in nets intended to capture a different species – or if the boat that caught them intended to. The people doing this care only for the fins, the animals don’t matter to them. The corpses of the dying sharks are dumped back overboard into the ocean. While at first glance this may appear to be an act of compassion, it is absolutely not. Sharks need to be able to swim to breath, without fins, they can’t move. As helpless as if they were bound and gagged, they drown, and slowly sink to the bottom of the ocean, where their bodies will rot away. The people on the boat don’t stick around to watch this. They have their prize.

The fins then travel hundreds of miles away, usually to Asiatic countries, where they are sold to create delicacies like shark fin soup. Hong Kong is the biggest market for fins, and controls roughly 50% of the shark fin trade. There, fins may sell for 330 US dollars a pound, and the soup that follows can cost up to 100 US dollars per bowl. These high prices do not protect the animals at all – shark fin soup is a traditional dish and is often served at weddings, birthdays, and other important celebrations.

Although we have incomplete data, because many countries do not report fin exports or imports, we can estimate that finning involves more than 125 countries around the world. It is a booming business – shark fins are among the most expensive fish products in the world, and they don’t have to be smuggled. No one seems to be particularly interested in the fate of sharks. Here’s why they should be:


No food chain or biological environment can function correctly, or healthily, without its apex predators. Sharks are at the top of the ocean’s food chain, and they need to remain there. Without sharks, octopus and seal populations are likely to boom out of control. Octopi and seals eat other marine animals, like fish and lobsters. If they continue to reproduce unchecked, they will begin to eradicate fish, lobster, and various crustacean populations around the world, wreaking havoc on the economies of fishing villages that rely on their catches to make a living, and eradicating a goodly part of the exports of the state of Maine.

Shark finning is also terrible because of one, terrifying reason: nobody cares. But people should. Because only with people will we be able to stop this. Only with people will we be able to save a species. So get yourself a t-shirt and start spreading the word. Because to help, people need to know.

To learn more about shark finning, or to actually buy a t-shirt, please visit the Shark Research Institute (SRI) at www.sharks.org



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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

Thesilentraven This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 19, 2010 at 6:57 pm:
I must agree with the charming little bird whose words sit below me. I am also an environmentalist. Reading this well written essay, I was shocked: I'd never heard about finning before. Thanks for writing it. Maybe it'll inspire action.
 
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OneLittleBird said...
Sept. 14, 2010 at 1:25 pm:
Great essay. I like that it is passionate and also well reasoned. I hadn't heard about this issue and I consider myself an environmentalist. We have to do something about this issue. Animals are not here for humans to torture for our pleasure.
 
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