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Kirsten Gotting

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Should shark fishing be banned?

Exploitation has led to the threat of extinction for many shark species. In Chinese culture shark fins are used in the popular shark fin soup, as well as in traditional medicinal remedies, both of which are centuries old and hold significant cultural importance. Demand for shark fins kills 73 million sharks each year. One third of the shark species that swim in the open ocean have been classified as threatened, with some populations being reduced to 10% of their former size.

The European Union (EU) has been responsible for supplying 14% of the shark fins to the global market. In 2003, the EU placed a ban on shark finning, which is the practice of cutting off shark fins at sea and discarding the potentially still living body to the ocean. However a loop hole currently exists that allows fins to comprise a considerable part of any given catch. This year a new ban has been proposed to the European Parliament to remove this loophole and make it illegal to shore shark fins without the bodies. Will placing a new ban on shark finning be enough to prevent sharks from going extinct? Or, should the proposed ban on shark finning be extended to ban fishing sharks in general?

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Closing Statement from Kirsten Gotting

Hello Contributors!

I have to say that every comment held great insight into this topic. Everyone helped open my mind to many of the possible avenues that this question could take. At this point in time I think that the most realistic way to help reestablish shark populations would be to enforce quotas and regulations regarding how many full sharks, fins still attached each fishing vessel would be able to bring in. This could change the availability of shark fins, but they would still be available for cultural traditions. I think that education will come with time, especially considering the example Jayant gave about young couples choosing not to serve the delicacy at their weddings for the sake of biodiversity. I'm not convinced that shark fisheries could be accomplished because of the tons of fish that would be required to feed the sharks. Additionally, farmed shark meat probably wouldn't taste the same as wild shark, kind of like how grass fed cow meat tastes different than grain.

Thank you everyone for your comments! I really enjoyed reading them and I hope everyone keeps sharks on their mind in the future! Lets preserve this ancient and majestic predator of the ocean, as they have helped preserve the biodiversity of the oceans that so many of us enjoy.

Sincerely,

Kirsten Gotting

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    May 24 2012: Should there be a moratorium on shark fishing, period? Fins, bodies--harpoons (back off, Ahab!), hands off?

    Sharks are in a delicate place. There are many threatened species of fish that we could decide to save, but they are "small fry" compared to sharks. Sharks are charismatic megafauna like lions and tigers and bears (oh my)--animals that we still are just a tad afraid of but have come to regard with added bits of regal dignity. They're like thrill rides or scary movies. .........................to those who watch "Shark Week"

    To the Japanese and Chinese who regard sharks as a major part of their cultural heritage, banning shark capture would be like banning Fourth of July fireworks (OK, probably not that severe, but you get the picture.) Fireworks are pretty and explosive but have you seen how much smoke they release?

    And to those who have no sense of sympathy for animals, who regard anything less than humans as lacking in innate goodness and spirit, sharks are just dangerous things, if they even think of them at all.

    What do I think? I think that anywhere it can be obviously demonstrated that sharks are not an integral part of the culture, there should be an outright ban on shark fishing--no fins, no bodies, nothing. Where it can be demonstrated as culturally significant (Japan...perhaps?) that country should be able to fish for sharks (but not fin), albeit under the condition that periodical checks by an international board yield a sustainable hatchery.
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      May 28 2012: I agree, I think to anyone other than those who have cultural significance should be banned from shark fishing. The trouble with this is how do you regulate and determine what is a cultural significance and to whom? I know in some cultures like the natives of canada or alaska things like this are done with certain animals but those populations are much smaller than say the japanese. I mean I'm 1/4th japanses so if I applied for a permit because it is "culturally significant to me" how could you tell if that is true?
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        May 28 2012: As far as permits for those who assert cultural significance, I think those should only be allotted in the homeland of the culture. You could say that it is not fair to suddenly enforce a code such as this when it has been going on for years. You could say that it is not fair to disenfranchise someone, culturally speaking, when they are out of their mother country. But you have to put your foot down somewhere.

        On the topic of fisheries occuring in Canada and Alaska, not just for sharks but for any sort of resource, if there are few enough people I have faith that the fish, if not strong enough to survive on their own, can be sustained by the experiential realization that "hey, it's getting harder and harder to find them!" as well as ecologists visiting these people--and not telling them, "hey, you have to quit your livelihood,"--just flicking the light on for them so they can see, perhaps, what they have been overlooking.

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