How Can We Ask Others to Ban Shark Finning If We Won't Outlaw it Ourselves?

If California (and Hawaii, Oregon and Washington state) can help spread the idea that shark fin soup is not desirable, then the global impacts for sharks could be significant. And, in the meantime, if we can directly reduce shark fin soup consumption by about 5%?

A shark without fins is dead. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Without fins, a shark can’t swim. Without fins, a shark can’t escape predators, seek shelter or catch food. Without fins, a shark can’t even breathe. Without fins, a living shark is already dead.

This is the fate that awaits every shark caught by shark finners, a scattered group of fishermen that supplies the key ingredient for shark fin soup. Not sure how shark finning works? This National Geographic video should clear a few things up. Put simply, it’s one of the cruelest and most barbaric forms of “hunting” we humans have invented yet. 

Approximately 73 million sharks die this way every year
. Most of them are still alive when their fins are sliced off. Shark finning is already illegal in American waters, but the sale of shark fins is still legal in 49 of the 50 states (Hawaii recently outlawed the practice with a ban that goes into effect July 1, 2011). This irony may soon be corrected in California, where state assembly member, Paul Fong, recently introduced a bill that would ban the sale of shark fins in the state. Similar legislation is also advancing in Oregon and Washington state.

Shark fin soup was once reserved for the very rich, and the very important occasions (elite weddings, banquets, state dinners). Now, that has all changed. Many Asian countries — the largest markets for shark fin soup — have seen an explosion of wealth in their middle class. With that wealth has come a rising demand for luxuries and status symbols, including shark fin soup. All told, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan consume approximately 95 percent of the world’s shark fin soup. So, why ban shark fin soup in places like Hawaii and California? If 95 percent of the problem resides in Asia, how can state and federal laws in the United States make a difference? It's a tough question, and an important one. But, the answer is very simple.

How can we possibly ask citizens of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to reconsider their soup choices, if we are not willing to do the same thing here? California may consume only a tiny fraction of the world’s shark fins, but this isn’t just about raw numbers. This is about setting an example. This is about doing the right thing. And, this is about public perception, status symbols and deliberate displays of wealth. No one buys shark fin soup because of hunger. No. People buy shark fin soup because they can. Because of what they think it says about them, and their place in this world.

If California (and Hawaii, Oregon and Washington state) can help spread the idea that shark fin soup is not desirable, then the global impacts for sharks could be significant. And, in the meantime, if we can directly reduce shark fin soup consumption by about 5%? Well, that's pretty significant too -- especially since the world's shark populations have already been slashed by about 90%. When things are as dire as that, every single percentage point -- every single shark -- is significant. -- JL

Comments: 7

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Of all the barbarity against animals n the world, I think shark finning is just about the worst. Why not kill and eat the whole animal instead of leaving it to die a tortured death. Not that I want the sharks killed but surely it would be the more humane thing to do. "Humane", now there's an interesting word. It is supposed to mean kindness and compassion but as far as I can see, humans are the least kind and compassionate of animals.Most animals kill to eat or for mates, we kill for superstition or sport, yuk, the sooner the human race dies out the better. Yes I know not everyone is like this but the amount of cruelty in the world is overwhelming.
Maybe if we got a bit more sensitive to the suffering of others (and ourselves, which follows from that) we would not have any more wars.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Thanks Deb, on to the Senate!

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

This is just a sick world and to please people who think they have pallets for ex-stream delicacy, what a bunch of crap.
People who think by eating this kind of stuff makes them in the elite crowd, well they all can kiss my butt. Believe me this doesn't make you rich or attractive, it makes you a murderer, and shame on you....

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Did you also know that this soup is tastless and when made pork or beef is added cause fins are just cartilige and have no meat either, Why do people eat it cause it cost alot of money and people think it makes them look good serving it ... Or so they think!

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

IFAW's position is spot-on! Everyone (including the US and EU) must stand united against not only the barbaric practice of shark finning, but also do everything we can to prevent the extinction of these creatures which are so essential to our entire ocean's health. As top predators, sharks keep the entire ocean food chain healthy, right down to the plankton which provides 70% of the air we breathe. As Sylvia Earle says, "No blue, no green." So yes, we need to pass laws to protect sharks - and there is no more time to waste. PS Just heard that Fong & Huffman's Assembly bill passed in California... now to keep it going through the Senate!

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Enough!

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

This barbaric practice should be banned immediately. Man can live without shark fin soup but the sharks cannot live without their fins.

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