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Excuse Me Waiter, But There’s an Endangered Species in My Bowl of Soup!

Would you eat a bowl of soup if you knew that is was made with minced endangered species? What about if it was also packed full with neurotoxins that can cause degenerative brain disease? Still hungry?

This is the case when it comes to shark fin soup, primarily a Chinese delicacy. The soup itself has no color, taste, or smell and requires addition of chicken, beef, or pork broth to add flavor. However, the cartilage from the shark fin provides texture to the soup. So, why consume it? Because it is a cultural sign of wealth and traditionally consumed at celebratory events including weddings.

Sadly, the demand for shark fin is driving several shark populations toward extinction. Tens of millions of sharks are killed annually for their fins[1]!  However, many shark species are late to mature, have few young and reproduce very infrequently – they are simply being removed faster than they can reproduce. For example, studies suggest that some hammerhead species in the northwest Atlantic have declined over 89% between 1986 and 2000[2]. A new study, which carried out DNA testing on shark fin soup served in 14 U.S. cities, revealed that endangered shark species, including hammerheads, were being served up at local restaurants[3].

Shark meat is rarely consumed. Their tissues contain high levels of urea (as in the main substance found in urine) that helps them osmoregulate in the oceans (jargon that basically means maintaining water balance so they don’t become too dehydrated)[4]. This makes their meat, for the most part, worthless. In contrast, trading in shark fins is extremely lucrative. A single bowl of soup can cost hundreds of dollars. So, when a boat goes out to harvest shark fins, they would prefer not to waste their precious cargo space on massive shark bodies, instead keeping only their fins. So, in most parts of the world, fisherman catch the sharks, hack off their fins, and discard the rest of the shark’s body at sea, leaving them to die on the ocean floor. This act is called “finning.”

In many countries, such as the U.S., finning is illegal. Here, the whole shark has to be brought back to shore before their fins are removed and body discarded. The notion is that this restriction limits the amount of sharks that can be brought back (due to boat space constraints). However, several shark populations have declined so much, that this constraint may not be enough…at this point, it is becoming a numbers game.

Photo: Shark fins drying in the sun
Shark fins drying in the sun in Kaohsiung before processing. 30 percent of the world’s shark species are Threatened or Near Threatened with extinction. Photo Credit: Shawn Heinrichs for the Pew Environment Group

Although shark fins are primarily consumed in Asia, shark finning (and fishing for their fins), is a global phenomenon. According to trade data from Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department, 83 countries or territories supplied more than 10.3 million kilograms (22.7 million pounds) of shark fin products to Hong Kong in 2011[5]. The top countries exporting fins to China include Spain, Mexico, and the U.S.

. “]”]Photo: Global shark fin trade import and export
2011 Imports of Shark Fins into Hong Kong. Figure above and below from Navigating Global Shark Conservation: Current Measures and Gaps[5
“]Photo: Global shark fin trade import and export
Top 15 countries exporting fins [5
So why should we care? Several reasons. Well, as top predators, many sharks play an important role in the ocean ecosystem[6]. Studies suggest that overfishing of large sharks can have rippling effects, influencing other animals in the community, which sometimes have negative consequences for both the environment and humans. Sharks are also economically important when kept alive. In fact, studies have found that sharks are worth more alive than dead[7]. Scuba divers are willing to pay more money to see sharks when they go diving. In over 20 years, the Bahamas have offered over 1 million shark-diver interactions, contributing an estimated gross of US$800 million to the Bahamian economy[8]. This doesn’t even consider the money that people spend on hotels, food, flights, etc. In the small developing community of Donsol, Philippines, whale shark tourism is responsible for bringing the local municipalities out of poverty by generating over 300 jobs and providing more than 200 fishermen seasonal employment[9].

Shark fishing also doesn’t have to be destructive. Shark catch and release fishing is a great way to enjoy the animal and is another way that the economy can benefit from live sharks.

As if you needed another reason to curb your appetite for shark fin, a recent study found that shark fins contain high levels of a neurotoxin called BMAA. This toxin is linked with neurodegenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The study suggested that consumers of shark fin put themselves at risk of getting these diseases[10].

Despite the ecological, economical, and health reasons to save sharks, I personally cringe at the thought of allowing a magnificent creature to go extinct under my watch. Sharks have inhabited the planet for 440 million years, surviving many of the worlds’ natural mass extinction events. Now, several shark populations are on that downward spiral to extinction due to human actions. In the future, old episodes on Discovery’s Shark Week may be the only way for people to see several shark species.

Great White Shark
The iconic fin of a great white shark cuts through the water, but is it soup bound? (Image courtesy Neil Hammerschlag)

Most consumers of the soup are unaware of these issues. In fact, in Chinese, shark fin soup is often called “fish wing soup.” I believe that increased awareness of these issues will lower the demand and ensure the survival of these species.

What can you do to help? Lots! Here is a list to get you started:

-          Educate yourself (Congrats, you are already doing that)

-          Educate others (Spread the word)

-          Go see sharks (Go on a shark dive)

-          Take your kids to an aquarium (Georgia Aquarium has 4 whale sharks and offers opportunities for swimmers)

-          Practice responsible catch and release fishing

-          Eat sustainable seafood

-          Support the creating of Marine Protected Areas and Shark Sanctuaries

-          Don’t eat shark fin soup and support shark fin bans

-          Encourage and praise restaurants that make the choice not to serve shark fin soup

-          Support reputable shark conservation organizations

-          Support reputable shark conservation research

-          Speak up!

 

These views are my own.


[1] Clarke, S.C., McAllister, M.K., Milner-Gulland, E.J., Kirkwood, G.P., Michielsens, C.G.J., Agnew, D.J., Pikitch, E.K., Nakano, H., and M.S. Shivji. (2006), “Global estimates of shark catches using trade records from commercial markets.” Ecology Letters, 9:1115-1126

[2] Myers, R. a, J. K. Baum, T. D. Shepherd, S. P. Powers, and C. H. Peterson. (2007). Cascading effects of the loss of apex predatory sharks from a coastal ocean. Science 315:1846-50.

[4] Hammerschlag N. (2006). Osmoregulation in Elasmobranchs: A review for fish biologists, behaviourists and ecologists. Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology 39(3): 209-228.

[6] Estes, J. a, J. Terborgh, J. S. Brashares, M. E. Power, J. Berger, W. J. Bond, S. R. Carpenter, T. E. Essington, R. D. Holt, J. B. C. Jackson, R. J. Marquis, L. Oksanen, T. Oksanen, R. T. Paine, E. K. Pikitch, W. J. Ripple, S. a Sandin, M. Scheffer, T. W. Schoener, J. B. Shurin, A. R. E. Sinclair, M. E. Soulé, R. Virtanen, and D. a Wardle. 2011. Trophic downgrading of planet Earth. Science , 333:301-6.

[7] Gallagher, A.J., and N. Hammerschlag. (2011). Global Shark Currency: The Distribution, Frequency and Economic Value of Shark Eco-tourism. Current Issues in Tourism, 14(8):792-812

[8] Cline,W. (2008). Shark diving overview for the islands of the Bahamas (p. 11). Nassau, Report of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. Nassau, Bahamas: Cline Marketing Group.

[9] Norman, B. and J. Catlin. (2007). Economic importance of conserving whale sharks. Report for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Sydney, 18 pp.

[10] Mondo, K., Hammerschlag, N., Basile, M., Pablo, J., Banack, S.A. and D.C. Mash DC. (2012). Cyanobacterial Neurotoxin β-N-Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) in Shark Fins, Marine Drugs, 10(2), 509-520; doi:10.3390/md10020509

Comments

  1. asproella
    merrimac
    February 16, 2013, 3:50 pm

    Man is his own worst enemy ,if they wipe out the sharks they have no fish fit enough to eat, SO MAN IS HIS OWN WORST ENEMY!

  2. Debbie Blalock
    Durham, NC
    February 15, 2013, 9:23 am

    Dear Neil,
    You had me until you mentioned captivity. I read your response to Ericka which really only repeats aquarium public relations. Captivity drives the killing of many marine mammals. And 2-3 whale sharks died almost immediately upon occupancy at the Georgia Aquarium. Please dig a little deeper on this issue. This is a good article which I would have liked to have shared, but I can’t promote captivity.

  3. Keng Tan
    Asia
    January 4, 2013, 10:12 am

    4 Jan 2013

    Since there are misconceptions and misinformation in your article I am obliged to response as follows :

    Dr Neil Hammerschlag (NH) wrote:

    1 “Would you eat a bowl of soup if you knew that is was made with minced endangered species?”

    My answer is no I would not, just as I would not eat minced snow leopards, or tigers or elephants or the tapir because they are all classified as endangered species.

    But, for your information, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), the UN watchdog on global trade on endangered species and whose members include 175 Governments, sharks are not an endangered species.

    Only 3 out of about 400 species are on the watch list, though they are not necessarily classified as endangered. They are the Great Whites, the basking sharks and the whale sharks and trade is regulated.

    Also if you care to check the statutes, according to the laws of the USA. UK, France, Spain, Germany, Russia, China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Indonesia to name a few, no shark is listed as endangered.

    2 NH wrote “The soup itself has no color, taste, or smell and requires addition of chicken, beef, or pork broth to add flavor… So, why consume it? ”

    Caviar is salty and otherwise has no taste or smell, why do folks in the West love to eat caviar, which can lead to the extinction of the sturgeons.

    3 NH wrote : “Sadly, the demand for shark fin is driving several shark populations toward extinction. ”

    This is simply not true. The writer’s claim ignores the FAO’s (Food and Agricultural Organization) catch statistics which showed that 242,537 tonnes of sharks were caught by the developed nations in the West in 2008.

    And the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, France, Portugal, Japan and the United Kingdom ranked as the top shark fishing nations in the West, with a total catch of 190,842 tonnes.

    What you also choose to ignore is that the biggest killers of sharks are the industrial-scale longline fisheries in the developed nations like Spain, the US, UK, France, Italy and Portugal using up to 140km of longlines with 10,000 hooks and purse seine nets to target not sharks but the more valuable giant bluefin tuna and swordfish and sadly millions of sharks are caught unintentionally as a by-catch instead.

    4 NH wrote “Tens of millions of sharks are killed annually for their fins[1]! “

    This is also not true as Dr Shelly Clarke, whose doctorate is on the topic, warned that she frequently reads the 73 million figure without any reference to the fact that it was her highest estimate in the year 2000; and almost as often she reads an estimate of 100 million for which she cannot find any scientific basis.

    ‘Even more troubling,’ she added, ‘some sources quote these figures as the number of sharks killed for their fins. The truth is that no one knows how many sharks are killed for their fins’.

    She cautioned that ‘exaggeration and hyperbole run the risk of undermining conservation campaigns’ and ‘selective and slanted use of information devalues and marginalizes researchers, who are working hard to impartially present the data’.

    5 NH wrote : “A new study, which carried out DNA testing on shark fin soup served in 14 U.S. cities, revealed that endangered shark species, including hammerheads, were being served up at local restaurants[3].”

    According to CITES, Hammerheads are not an endangered species.

    6 NH wrote “Shark meat is rarely consumed. Their tissues contain high levels of urea …. This makes their meat, for the most part, worthless.”

    This is also not true. According to NOAA data in 2011 the USA consumed 20 million lbs of one species of sharks, the spiny dogfish, marketed as as “steakfish” or “grayfish”.

    In the EU, including the UK another 44 million lbs of the same shark species were eaten, disguised as rock salmon fish & chips in the UK, as “saumonette” in France, as “seeaal” or as ‘schillerlocken” in Germany and “palombo” in Italy. In Canada it is called Kahada. In Australia and NZ sharks meat are called flakes and made into fish & chips dishes. Why are you not telling them to stop taking fish & chips made from Shark meat? Why the double standard?

    7 NH wrote : “In contrast, trading in shark fins is extremely lucrative. A single bowl of soup can cost hundreds of dollars. So, when a boat goes out to harvest shark fins, they would prefer not to waste their precious cargo space on massive shark bodies, instead keeping only their fins. So, in most parts of the world, fisherman catch the sharks, hack off their fins, and discard the rest of the shark’s body at sea, leaving them to die on the ocean floor. This act is called “finning.”

    Poor fishermen in the Third World would never throw away a shark when the whole fish can be used to feed their community. The video was a fake as it showed that the shark was finned and then tossed overboard with its caudal fins intact. These are the most prized of the fins and it was like throwing away the banana and keeping the skins. That mistake made by unschooled Western activists gave the game away.

    And it is only the rich fisheries in the West that would throw away sharks when they caught them in their longlines meant to target more valuable fish like the swordfish and giant bluefin tuna, the latter of which can fetch over US$50,000 each at the Tsukiji wholesale fish market in Tokyo. The record price paid for a single giant bluefin tuna was US$400,000 in Tokyo. To save freezer space they throw overboard the sharks caught and killed.

    8 NH wrote “Although shark fins are primarily consumed in Asia, shark finning (and fishing for their fins), is a global phenomenon.”

    Then go after those who allegedly commit the inhumane acts. Why campaign to ban shark’s fin soup when sharks are not an endangered species according to CITES? If the abattoirs abuse cow do you campaign for Americans to stop eating hamburgers?

    9 NH wrote : “According to trade data from Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department, 83 countries or territories supplied more than 10.3 million kilograms (22.7 million pounds) of shark fin products to Hong Kong in 2011[5]. The top countries exporting fins to China include Spain, Mexico, and the U.S.”

    The US and the EU consumed 64 million lbs of shark meat in 2011 and yet Western activists choose to ignore it. If Western consumers can feast on 95 % of the shark (the meat) in fish & chips in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Australia and New Zealand why are they going ballistics when Asians feast on the other 5% of the shark (the fins) which are unappreciated and discarded anyway? Why the double standard? Is this a new form of Cultural Imperialism?

    10 NH wrote :” As if you needed another reason to curb your appetite for shark fin, a recent study found that shark fins contain high levels of a neurotoxin called BMAA.”

    I am told this study is only at a preliminary stage as tests were confined to a small region in the US. A study done in Asia showed that methyl mercury is found in the muscle of the shark and the fins have very little muscles. Why are you not warning pregnant women in the West to stop consuming fish and chips dishes made from shark meat?

    Your efforts to save sharks is commendable but instead of dwelling on polemics, you should campaign for longlines to be banned or regulated globally as this will reduce the shark bycatch exponentially.

    • Neil Hammerschlag
      January 6, 2013, 8:34 am

      Dear Keng Tang (KT)

      Thanks for your detailed response.. Greatly appreciated. However, the information I provide is indeed factual. I will respond to each of your comments individually below. Your comments are in italics, following by my responses

      KT wrote: But, for your information, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), the UN watchdog on global trade on endangered species and whose members include 175 Governments, sharks are not an endangered species. Also if you care to check the statutes, according to the laws of the USA. UK, France, Spain, Germany, Russia, China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Indonesia to name a few, no shark is listed as endangered.

      — CITES regulates trade of threatened species. They, however, are not responsible for classifying species as “endangered.” That said, you are incorrect as 3 sharks are already listed on CITES (whale, white and basking), with several more being proposed to be added at the upcoming meeting. In contrast, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) does provide the conservation status of animals. As summarized in [5], according to the IUCN, for those sharks where data is available to determine their conservation status, 55 % (150 species) are threatened or near threatened with extinction. Similarly, of the 62 highly migratory shark species that have been assessed, 82% (51 species) are considered threatened or near threatened.

      KT wrote: Caviar is salty and otherwise has no taste or smell, why do folks in the West love to eat caviar, which can lead to the extinction of the sturgeons.

      — I agree. I would similarly recommend that people do not eat beluga sturgeon. However, this blog is about sharks, whereas many other people have written about the threatened status of beluga sturgeon.

      KT wrote: NH wrote : “Sadly, the demand for shark fin is driving several shark populations toward extinction. ”This is simply not true. The writer’s claim ignores the FAO’s (Food and Agricultural Organization) catch statistics which showed that 242,537 tonnes of sharks were caught by the developed nations in the West in 2008. And the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, France, Portugal, Japan and the United Kingdom ranked as the top shark fishing nations in the West, with a total catch of 190,842 tonnes.

      — Just because many countries are catching hundreds of thousands of sharks annually does not mean that they are not threatened (it actually further demonstrates the threats facing sharks). Multiple research efforts have demonstrated that several species of shark have declined in varying degrees over the past several decades. Moreover, some studies report that several species of sharks have declined in population by 90% or more during the last several decades in areas where they were formerly abundant. For example, According to the IUCN Shark Specialist Group, 15% of all shark species and 1/3 of all open ocean shark species are Threatened, Endangered, or Critically Endangered. To learn more go to:

      http://www.sharksavers.org/en/education/sharks-are-in-trouble/,
      http://www.sharkalliance.org/v.asp?rootid=14&level1=14&level1id=14&nextlevel=14&depth=1http://oceana.org/en/our-work/protect-marine-wildlife/sharks/overview,
      http://www.southernfriedscience.com/?p=12947

      KT wrote: What you also choose to ignore is that the biggest killers of sharks are the industrial-scale longline fisheries in the developed nations like Spain, the US, UK, France, Italy and Portugal using up to 140km of longlines with 10,000 hooks and purse seine nets to target not sharks but the more valuable giant bluefin tuna and swordfish and sadly millions of sharks are caught unintentionally as a by-catch instead.

      — I don’t ignore this at all. I explicitly mention in the blog that many industrialized (west) nation (including the ones you list) are responsible for catching and exporting fins. I also don’t ignore bycatch. That is one of the biggest threats facing sharks. However, the article is mainly about finning. When caught as bycatch, many species are finned. It would be best if in these fisheries, sharks were not discarded, but brought back to shore with fins and carcass intact.

      KT wrote: NH wrote “Tens of millions of sharks are killed annually for their fins[1]! “ This is also not true as Dr Shelly Clarke, whose doctorate is on the topic, warned that she frequently reads the 73 million figure without any reference to the fact that it was her highest estimate in the year 2000; and almost as often she reads an estimate of 100 million for which she cannot find any scientific basis. ‘Even more troubling,’ she added, ‘some sources quote these figures as the number of sharks killed for their fins. The truth is that no one knows how many sharks are killed for their fins’.

      —- Clarke estimated that between 26 and 73 million sharks that are killed per year (some of which are from target fisheries some as bycatch) which are sold in the Hong Kong fin market. I wrote “tens of millions” which is consistent with figure and your comment.

      KT, you wrote: According to CITES, Hammerheads are not an endangered species.

      —According to the IUCN, hammerheads are listed under the endangered category

      KT, you wrote: NH wrote “Shark meat is rarely consumed. Their tissues contain high levels of urea …. This makes their meat, for the most part, worthless.” This is also not true. According to NOAA data in 2011 the USA consumed 20 million lbs of one species of sharks, the spiny dogfish, marketed as as “steakfish” or “grayfish”. In the EU, including the UK another 44 million lbs of the same shark species were eaten, disguised as rock salmon fish & chips in the UK, as “saumonette” in France, as “seeaal” or as ‘schillerlocken” in Germany and “palombo” in Italy. In Canada it is called Kahada. In Australia and NZ sharks meat are called flakes and made into fish & chips dishes. Why are you not telling them to stop taking fish & chips made from Shark meat? Why the double standard?

      —The information I provide in my blog is factual. The figures you cite or shark meat consumed is relatively rare compared to the scale of sharks that are discarded and only fins kept. Indeed, as I write in my blog “83 countries or territories supplied more than 10.3 million kilograms (22.7 million pounds) of shark fin products to Hong Kong in 2011[5].”

      KT wrote: Poor fishermen in the Third World would never throw away a shark when the whole fish can be used to feed their community. The video was a fake as it showed that the shark was finned and then tossed overboard with its caudal fins intact. These are the most prized of the fins and it was like throwing away the banana and keeping the skins. That mistake made by unschooled Western activists gave the game away.

      —Again, as I state in the blog, in “many cases” – not all cases. However, keeping the whole sharks is relatively rare compared to finning. I am not sure what video you are talking about. However, there are many videos documenting finning. This is a fact.

      Kt wrote: And it is only the rich fisheries in the West that would throw away sharks when they caught them in their longlines meant to target more valuable fish like the swordfish and giant bluefin tuna, the latter of which can fetch over US$50,000 each at the Tsukiji wholesale fish market in Tokyo. The record price paid for a single giant bluefin tuna was US$400,000 in Tokyo. To save freezer space they throw overboard the sharks caught and killed.

      —I agree. This is part of the problem. I am glad you are in agreement with me on the shark issue.

      KT wrote: Then go after those who allegedly commit the inhumane acts. Why campaign to ban shark’s fin soup when sharks are not an endangered species according to CITES? If the abattoirs abuse cow do you campaign for Americans to stop eating hamburgers?

      –I am not “going after” anyone or any culture. Indeed, as you point out, I do state that finning is a global phenomenon. Further, many species of sharks are listed by IUCN as threatened (Threatened means Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered according to IUCN Red List standards). In addition, you analogy to hamburgers and finning is flawed. First, the issue I am making has nothing to do with animal cruelty, it has to do with sustainability. Second, many cows are bread and raised for the sole purpose of human consumption; Third, cows are not threatened with extinction; and finally, cows are not caught, have their tails cut off and the rest of the meat discarded and wasted (which would be a closer analogy to finning). It is worth noting that I support sustainable shark fishing and consumption – shark finning of threatened species is not sustainable.

      KT you wrote: The US and the EU consumed 64 million lbs of shark meat in 2011 and yet Western activists choose to ignore it. If Western consumers can feast on 95 % of the shark (the meat) in fish & chips in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Australia and New Zealand why are they going ballistics when Asians feast on the other 5% of the shark (the fins) which are unappreciated and discarded anyway? Why the double standard? Is this a new form of Cultural Imperialism?

      —The issue you raise further demonstrates the threat facing many shark species. However, it is not the subject of the blog (neither is it ignored). As I point out in my previous answers, eating shark meat is relatively rare compared to shark fin soup. The biggest threat facing many shark populations is shark finning – fact. As I told you, I support sustainable shark fishing and consumption; however, shark finning of threatened species is not sustainable. This is not a cultural issue or a value issue.

      KT you wrote: ” As if you needed another reason to curb your appetite for shark fin, a recent study found that shark fins contain high levels of a neurotoxin called BMAA.” I am told this study is only at a preliminary stage as tests were confined to a small region in the US. A study done in Asia showed that methyl mercury is found in the muscle of the shark and the fins have very little muscles. Why are you not warning pregnant women in the West to stop consuming fish and chips dishes made from shark meat?

      —The study found that the shark fins analayzed contain the neurotoxin, preliminary or not. The toxins biomagnify since many sharks reside at the top of the food web. I agree with you about the issues of mercury. I certainly do warn women in the west to avoid consuming shark meat.

      KT you wrote: Your efforts to save sharks is commendable but instead of dwelling on polemics, you should campaign for longlines to be banned or regulated globally as this will reduce the shark bycatch exponentially

      —I do advocate for longlining to be regulated globally. I think this is similarly a worthy cause.

  4. Ericka Ceballos
    Canada
    October 3, 2012, 5:31 pm

    Great article! Thanks for writing it to create an education about this very important issue.

    My only concern here, is that you mention taking kids to aquariums to swim with whale sharks. Keeping whale sharks in aquariums (and also marine mammals) in captivity is cruel, and certainly it is not educative at all, as they can’t display their normal behaviour like when they are free. How can an animal in captivity swimming in circles in a small artificial pool can be natural?

    • Neil Hammerschlag
      January 6, 2013, 8:42 am

      Dear Ericka
      Thanks for the kind words. I think sharks, especially whale sharks, in their natural environment is the best thing for them. But, I think, if done responsibly, keeping sharks in aquariums can be a positive thing. For example, the Georgia Aquarium has whale sharks on exhibit. However, these specific whale sharks would have otherwise been killed. Instead, the aquarium purchased them for display. As stated on the aquarium’s website: “By researching and housing whale sharks, the Aquarium is able to participate in groundbreaking scientific research and educate millions of people about the animals, both of which encourage and promote the conservation of the species.” I think their website does a good job describing the issue: http://www.georgiaaquarium.org/support-us/conservation/whale-shark-conservation.aspx

  5. bob graveline
    south hadley mass.
    September 10, 2012, 2:08 pm

    we need to respect all species that play an essential role in maintaining an environmental balance on our planet .

  6. Judy Ki (Chair - APAOHA)
    San Diego, CA
    September 9, 2012, 2:59 pm

    As a Chinese-American who worked tirelessly on behalf of California’s ban on the sales, trade, distribution & possession of fins (AB 376), I want to remind people that shark fin soup is NOT a defining aspect of our culture. It is merely a practice by the wealthy to show off their status. This practice can easily be replaced by other foods. I am proud and grateful to Cathay Pacific Airlines for their committment to stop the transportation of any shark products on their flights. Thank you for continuing to educate people about the biology of sharks. Culture evolves; extinction is forever!

    • Neil Hammerschlag
      January 6, 2013, 8:42 am

      Dear Judy. This is an excellent point. Thanks for sharing

  7. Rick Fox
    United States
    September 2, 2012, 8:40 am

    Thank you for your continuing and cutting edge research on the lives of sharks Dr. Hammerschlag as well as your public educational outreach such as this article. ~ Rick, http://www.Facebook.com/EternalOcean

  8. Jim McCallum
    Bethesda, MD
    September 1, 2012, 8:08 pm

    Fortunately (for the sharks), good substitutes are being developed from other fish cartilagenous parts and will be on the market widely soon as an affordable “faux sharkfin”. On the other hand, stocks of sharks such as the Dogfish in the US Atlantic are in good enough shape that several environmental groups have defined them as “sustainable” so rather than throw them away when caught, shouldn’t their fins be used and not wasted? And some nations, such as China, are at least making an effort to decrease the damage to rare species by banning them from use at official ceremonies. It might take awhile for that to be effectively enforced, of course. US fishermen are required to bring the entire shark to shore and not just the fins – and the US is actively encouraging other nations to implement similar conservation measures. I’m more worried about gray wolves, whales in ship channels, and the other really badly abused species.

    • Neil Hammerschlag
      January 6, 2013, 8:50 am

      Dear Jim
      Thanks for sharing. Yes – “faux sharkfin” is being developed. However, since shark fins are primarily consumed as a cultural delicacy, and not so much for taste, I think that faux sharkfin is not very popular. That said, I hope it does grow in popularity. I think this is a great effort.

      In theory, I agree with you that a sustainable shark fin industry would be okay. However, There is very little evidence to suggest that this would work in practice. You mention the dogfish as sustainable. That is the only shark that I am aware of that is considered sustainable. However, this is still disputed and there is mounting evidence that it is, in fact, not sustainable.

      I support sustainable shark fishing. In many cases, the information and recommendations that fisheries scientists provide to managers in terms of sustainable harvest levels, is not always adopted and in many situations exceeded. However, the best option would be fully enforced regulations that are put in place that can ensure sustainable harvest.