Sharks are among the oldest species on Earth and have survived for hundreds of millions of years. However, now, partly thanks to certain culinary habits, it is possible that they will die out after all this time.
Tens of millions of sharks, large and small, are killed each year for their fins. The fins are used as ingredients in shark fin soup, which is considered a delicacy in Chinese and other Asian cultures. In a practice called shark finning, live sharks are captured so that their fins can be cut off, whereupon the mutilated fish are thrown overboard to die in the sea slowly and painfully.
This practice is not only cruel, but it is also detrimental and not only for sharks but for entire marine ecosystems. Sharks often serve vital roles in these ecosystems as top predators. They keep fish populations healthy by preying on weak, old and diseased specimens.
Yet each year, more than 70 million sharks are killed by people for their fins; some experts have estimated the number to be as high as 100 million sharks per year. Sharks belong to about 440 species, but the relentless slaughter has left a quarter of shark species threatened or endangered.
In China, Hong Kong, and much of Southeast Asia, shark fins remain on the menu. Efforts have been made, and successfully, to convince hotels and restaurants to stop offering it, what many customers consider a state dish.
It is encouraging that more and more countries are looking to enact wholesale bans on shark fins. Canada has become the first country in the world to ban the import and export of all fins, thanks to Bill S-238, an amendment to the fisheries law that establishes a “ban on the import and export of fins. shark".
Shark finning has been illegal in the North American nation since 1994, but outside of Asia, Canada has long been the largest importer of shark fins. Last year alone 160,000 kilograms of fins were imported to Canada from around the globe.
“Today is a great day for our oceans. The revised Fisheries Act has the potential to be one of the most transformative things that has happened to our oceans in many years, "says Josh Laughren, executive director of Oceana Canada, a marine conservation group. "The act now lays a solid foundation to support healthy oceans for generations to come."
The sale or even possession of shark fins has also been outlawed south of the border in a dozen states in the US, including California, Hawaii, New York, and the US territory of Guam. Shark fin soup has also been banned in several European countries.
However, despite considerable progress in recent years in removing shark fins from the menu, they are still consumed wholesale in Hong Kong and elsewhere in China. However, due to pressure from environmentalists, several prominent restaurants in Hong Kong have vowed to stop offering the dish next year.