A Ban on Shark Fin Soup Is Necessary to Protect the Shark from Extinction
Many species of shark are in danger of extinction. The demand for shark fin soup causes overfishing and this could be disastrous for the delicate balance of the ocean's ecosystem. We should ban shark fishing, even at the extent of destroying a piece of Asian tradition.
Please cast your vote after you've read the arguments.
You can also add to the debate by leaving a comment at the end of the page.
If the demand for shark fins is reduced then the killing will be reduced.
While there is such a high demand for shark fin soup it is impossible to fish sharks in a sustainable manner. In the last 50 years there has been a 90% decline in shark populations. Where cash can be made and a product is in high demand, inevitably people will find a way of over-fishing for maximum profit. Shark fins can retail from between $400-$1000 per kg, and to put this into perspective a kg of shrimp only retails around $6(1)The current unregulated nature of the shark fin trade therefore attracts a criminal element.
(1) SEAFDEC (2006) Shark Production, Utilisation and Management in the ASEAN Region (2003-2004), Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center, Bangkok, Thailand.
Simply banning the soup will not necessarily decrease the demand for it; it will only make it an even more rare and special delicacy than it already is. Like cuban cigars in the U.S., it will become an edgy status symbol for the wealthy. This could potentially drive the prices of fins up and make illegal targeting of sharks even more profitable for fishermen.
A better way to solve the problem is to reduce demand for the soup by continuing to educate the public about the cruelty behind it. This sort of approach is used for other luxury goods like fur; if shark fin soup is no longer sen as desirable, then the trade will fall away.
Anyway, sharks are also fished for their meat, and some breeds of shark can be legally subjected to commercial fishes. Should the fins of these sharks go to waste due to a ban on this delicacy?
More soup for us means less oxygen for us.
There is also the environmental impact to consider as sharks balance the oceans eco-system and removing them could be disastrous to life above sea level. Between 70-80% of the planets oxygen is produced in the sea(2), therefore, if sharks are over-fished for soup then an over-population of fish will continually feed on the oceans oxygen producing plants without a predatory influence. By killing sharks for soup we are really killing ourselves.
(2)WildAid (2007) End of the Line? (second edition)- http://www.wildaid.org/PDF/reports/EndOfTheLine2007US_Oceana.pdf
If too many fish in the sea are a problem, why are environmentalists telling us to cut back on the consumption of fishes like cod? Surely if we fish the correct proportion of sharks and the fish that they prey upon then we can retain some sort of balance, allowing plant life to flourish and oxygen production to continue.
Eating shark fin soup actually damages human health.
Shark flesh contains high levels of mercury as it stores the mercury contained within the fish it consumes. In the ocean mercury is converted to methylmercury by micro-organisms and enters the food chain through microscopic plankton. Methylmercury is potent to humans and as a neurotoxin can affect the functioning of the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver(3)It has also been linked to both infertility in men(4)and the hindrance of brain development in utero(5)
(3)Ferreira, A.G, Faria, V.V, de Carvalho, C.E.V, Lessa, R.P.T and da Silva, F.M.S. (2004) Total Mercury in the Night Shark, Carcharhinus Signatus in the Western Equatorial Atlantic Ocean. Brazilian Archives of Biol. And Tech. 47(4): 629-634.
(4)Dickman, M.D & Leung, K.M.C. (1998) Mercury and organochlorine exposure from fish consumption in Hong Kong. Chemosphere 37(5): 991-1015.
(4)Grandjean, P et al (1997) Cognitive deficit in 7-yer-old children with prenatal exposure to methylmercury. Neurology and Teratology.19: 417-428.
Shark fin soup is not an everyday supper; it is an expensive, exclusive dish designed to impress guests at banquets and other special occasions. Most foreign visitors will probably only try it once on a visit to China, and at most people are likely to eat it only once or twice a year. Mercury consumption might be a threat if it was eaten on a regular basis, but the levels aren't high enough for occasional portions to damage health.
Other fish are probably a greater risk, since they are eaten more frequently.
Sharks do not produce the quantity of young in order to replenish population deficiencies attributed to overfishing
Sharks are slow-growing and live long, which makes them vulnerable to over-fishing. Their offspring are few and are produced late in their lives. These factors make the shark unable to withstand exploitation of any kind and it will be extremely difficult for them to recover from a heavy decline(6)
(6)WildAid (2007) End of the Line? (second edition)- http://www.wildaid.org/PDF/reports/EndOfTheLine2007US_Oceana.pdf
Under the present law, sharks cannot legally be subjected to mass fishing. While doubtless they are sometimes illegally targeted, this problem is unlikely to be solved by a ban on the soup- if fisherman are willing to break the law to make money, it is likely that restaurant owners will take a similar stance.
Banning shark fin soup would destroy a piece of Asian tradition.
Shark fin soup is a Chinese delicacy since the banquets of the Ming dynasty (AD 1368-1644)(7). It originated in southern China but has spread through the whole country and to other Asian communities. It is now commonly found in weddings and at corporate functions.
(7)Clarke, S et al (2004) Understanding pressures on fishery resources through trade statistics: a pilot study of four products in the Chinese seafood market. Fish and Fisheries 5: 53-74.
Just because something is 'traditional' doesn't mean that cruelty is justifiable. Binding the feet of young girls to make them attractively small was another Chinese tradition, but few would argue that ought to be preserved.
Bear baiting, cock fighting, public executions...these were all historically part of British 'tradition.' But now we recognise that these practices are cruel, and that things need to change. Asian culture is no more sacred than any other, and must adapt to modern awareness of the wider impact of some traditional practices.
By reducing the number of sharks in the ocean for soup, the number of attacks on humans is reduced
In 2005 there were 58 unprovoked attacks and four fatalities due to attacks by sharks, by reducing their number the public are being protected. (8)
(8) International Shark Attack File (2005) Worldwide Attack Summary- http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/statistics/2005attacksummary.htm
Dangerous species still deserve protection. Tigers are also a dangerous predator, but due to their rarity it is now illegal to hunt them. In fact, tigers have been responsible for more human deaths than any other predator- they killed over 300,000 people in India during the 19th century.
Four deaths worldwide is such a tiny number that we cannot consider sharks a genuine threat. Consider that last year around 360,000 people were bitten, and 32 people were killed by domestic dogs in the U.S. alone, and we see that sharks are the least of our worries.
Killing sharks in moderation through quotas would allow the shark fin soup trade to continue.
There is no need to ban the soup; just seek tougher restrictions on the over-fishing and in increase in the technology to stop sharks becoming the by-catch of some fishing vessels.
Experience has shown that the legislation on shark fishing is extremely difficult to enforce. What kind of technology can possibly create a net that distinguishes between commercial fish and sharks whilst being cost effective for fishermen? I don't see it arriving any time soon. We can't penalize fishermen for accidentally catching sharks, especially considering the difficulties faced by the business. It would be far better to cut off the shark fin trade at the other end, and make breaking the law less likely by removing the financial incentive.
The answer is more regulation and moderation
I can understand that it is a traditional soup for weddings and banquets in Asia, and I have nothing against that. What I am against is just catching the shark, cutting off the fin, then releasing it t die a painful death. I grew up in a family with several hunters, and I was always taught to use everything that you could from the animal. So it seems just wasteful and spiteful to go just for the fin. I have eaten shark and some point a few years ago, and I find it delicious, so it should make sense to use the whole shark.
I can also understand the enviormentalist view on this as well. "Overfishing" or "OverHunting" almost always leads a spiecies to extinction. This has been proven numerous times in history. I seriously doubt a ban would help. It would just make it more rare and people wont care what needs to be done to get it. I believe regulating that the entire shark be captured and setting a certain quota while watching the population and making changes to quota as need be would be a more balanced choice. This way we can guarentee the shark can be around for future generations, as well as preserving a tradition.
Banning Shark's fin soup will only put it on the black market
Once something is banned, it goes directly to the black market, something not uncommon in most countries, at ridiculous prices. By then, sharks fin soup will have become even more a luxury and certainly be high on demand. If killing sharks for their fins is banned, there will be more of a risk to sharks going extinct because of demands from the black market. The only way to ensure the shark population does not become extinct is to place laws, implement regulation and moderation to the amount of sharks killed. To sum up, placing an international ban will create a reverse effect where obtaining sharks fin for soup will be higher in demand and have more people willing to kill sharks for the higher prices they are selling fins for, thus regulation and moderation is the right answer.
What do you think?