Blog Tags: Sharks
Each year, millions of sharks are slaughtered for their fins to meet the demand for shark fin soup. Over the past few years, several U.S. states passed laws against the trade in shark fins to help shut down the market. In the recent issue of Oceana magazine, we reveal how a government agency is taking steps to undermine these bans.
You might not have heard, but sharks are in trouble from an unlikely source—our own federal government. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the government agency tasked with managing our nation’s fisheries, is taking steps to undermine state laws that protect sharks.
Because you can’t keep pulling out the same stale old facts at your Shark Week parties, we're going to hook you up with some fresh new shark facts to astound and amaze your friends and family! When we told a few of these shark facts to the basking shark in the photo below, his jaw dropped:
1. The basking shark uses its enormous mouth to filter plankton out of up to 395,000 gallons (1.5 million liters) of seawater through the huge gills that almost encircle its head
2. The curiously named cookiecutter shark is a parasite that bites circular chunks out of its prey. Holding onto its victim by suction, it twists itself around, using its razor-sharp lower teeth to bite out a cookie-shaped piece of flesh. As if that wasn’t freaky enough, the nocturnal cookiecutter shark lures its victims with glowing green bioluminescent lights on its belly.
Following Oceana’s newly released report on the harmful impacts of illegal fishing, one of the questions that I as Oceana's Northeast representative was asked most often was, “Where is this happening?” The short answer: Illegal fishing happens everywhere, from the most distant waters near Antarctica to just off the U.S. coast.
Maryland made history today by becoming the first East Coast state to ban the possession, sale and distribution of shark fins throughout the state. They join the entire West Coast, as well as Illinois and Hawaii, in banning the fin trade, which drives the cruel and unnecessary act of shark finning and is contributing to the near-extinction of many shark species.
Less than one week after passing the state Assembly, the Delaware state Senate has signed on to a bill banning the trade of shark fins within the state’s borders.
The states spanning the entire West Coast, plus Hawaii and Illinois, already have shark fin bans in place. In Maryland, a similar bill was just signed into law today by Governor Martin O'Malley, and the New York Legislature is considering a ban as well.
The gruesome practice of shark finning—slicing off a shark’s fins and throwing the body overboard, often while still alive—is illegal in the United States. But shark fin soup remains a pricey Asian delicacy, often selling for up to $100 a bowl, and fins can be imported from other countries where the practice is legal.
Yesterday, the Delaware House of Representatives took a huge step forward for shark conservation efforts worldwide when they passed a bill that would prohibit the trade of shark fins within their state borders. House Bill 41 bans the sale, possession, and distribution of shark fins, which are commonly used in the Asian delicacy shark fin soup. Demand for these products drives the harmful and wasteful practice of shark finning, which is responsible for the deaths of millions of sharks every year and the depletion of populations worldwide.
A new study published earlier this year in Marine Policy put the number of sharks slaughtered each year at 100 million, or roughly three sharks caught per second. Outraged by these shocking numbers, Joe Chernov and Robin Richards created an infographic to put the figures in perspective. While shark attacks on humans do happen (there were 12 fatal ones last year) the existential threat humans pose to the future of sharks is far graver. While there's a lot to be said about the horrors of shark finning, we'll let this graphic do the talking.
This week brought great news for shark populations that are dwindling both in U.S. waters and worldwide. Today, the Delaware House of Representatives introduced a bill prohibiting the possession, trade, sale and distribution of shark fins within the state. If passed, House Bill 41 would make Delaware the first East Coast state to pass a ban on the shark fin trade, following in the footsteps of Oregon, Washington, California, Hawaii and Illinois.
Current federal law prohibits shark finning in U.S. waters, requiring that sharks be brought into port with their fins still attached. However, this law does not prohibit the sale and trade of processed fins that are imported into the country from other regions that could have weak or even nonexistent shark protections in place.
This unsustainable catch is driven by the demand for shark fins, often used as an ingredient in shark fin soup, and kills millions of sharks every year. Delaware’s bill would close the loopholes that fuel the trade and demand for fins, and ensure that the state is not a gateway for shark products to enter into other U.S. state markets.
Not only was there great news coming out of the U.S., international shark lovers have reason to celebrate as well. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), voted this week to place stricter regulations on the trade of manta rays, three species of hammerheads, oceanic whitetip and porbeagle sharks, acknowledging that these species are in dire need of protection. When countries export these species, they are required to possess special permits that prove these species were harvested sustainably. This decision will greatly curb illegal overfishing and reduce the numbers of endangered sharks killed globally.
There’s a new estimate for how many sharks are killed each year by fishermen worldwide and the news is grim. Despite growing awareness of the threat sharks face and legislative efforts around the globe to stem the unsustainable harvest of sharks, a new study published this week in Marine Policy puts the number slaughtered each year at 100 million sharks, or three sharks caught per second.
Due to the incomplete nature of the data for shark catches, that number could be as low as 63 million or as high as 273 million, but both the high and low end estimates are outside of safe biological limits. According to the study’s authors, this number represents approximately 7% of all sharks in the ocean. On average, shark populations can grow at a maximum rate of 5% per year. As can be seen, shark populations cannot grow fast enough to sustain this enormous removal each year, which is why sharks numbers have declined so dramatically in recent years.
The primary culprit for this staggering level of exploitation remains the same: overfishing and bycatch, driven by the unabated demand for shark fin soup, the consumption of which is seen as a status symbol in China. The fin itself is a largely flavorless component of the soup and provides no additional nutritional value.
Sharks are especially vulnerable to overfishing due to their slow growth, late maturation and small litters, with biological life histories that more closely resemble large mammals than other fish. Some sharks, like the Atlantic Ocean's dusky shark, do not mature until as late as 21 years of age and give birth to as few as three pups every three years.
Oceana is fighting to protect sharks around the world. Learn more about what we do.