Shark finning, the act of removing a shark’s fins and dumping its carcass, is arguably the biggest threat to shark populations worldwide. Each year, anywhere from 73 to 100 million sharks are killed to make a traditional Chinese dish called shark fin soup (Jefferies, 2012). While most countries have laws in place to regulate shark finning, the immense demand for shark fins has created an international black market. China’s large population coupled with a recent economic boom has made the shark fin industry increasingly unsustainable (Clarke, Harley, Hoyle, & Rice, 2013). Sharks are particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they don’t reach sexual maturity until later in their lives, which means many sharks are being killed before they are able to contribute to the next generation. While shark conservation has come a long way in the past decade, research indicates that more efforts need to be made to prevent sharks from going extinct.
Chinese culture plays a large role in shark conservation. The Chinese have been eating shark fin soup since the Sung dynasty, which lasted from AD 960 to 1279 (Dell’Apa, Smith, & Kaneshiro-Pineiro, 2014). The soup is considered a delicacy and was thought to have medicinal properties. It was also a luxury item, served at traditional seafood banquets as a symbol of wealth. Today, economic growth in China has spurred an increase in shark fin imports to satisfy a larger middle class (Fabinyi & Liu, 2014). Modern Chinese professionals actually rely on seafood banquets to form working relationships. In 2012, representatives from seafood restaurants in Beijing were interviewed to assess the social importance of these banquets. It was discovered that the consumption ...
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...low fisheries to harvest shark fins as long as they also utilize the rest of the shark, which is usually discarded because the fins are the most valuable part of its body. This doesn’t cut down on damage to shark populations, it just minimizes the waste of shark meat. Herndon, Gallucci, DeMaster, and Burke (2010) cite the insufficient enforceability of shark finning laws as conservation’s greatest failure. They call for the creation of an International Commission for the Conservation of Sharks, following the example of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The IWC was founded in 1946 to promote whale conservation and combat the whaling industry. A global shark commission would be able to learn from blunders the IWC made in its early years and quickly begin to enact change. Uniform, international laws would be easier to enforce and offer sharks more protection.
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