TED Conversations

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: No scientific research proves consuming shark – in any form – benefits your health. Instead, studies prove that shark can contain high levels of poisonous mercury. Many organizations worldwide warn against consuming shark fin because it can cause mental and neurological issues. By eating shark fin soup, you are putting your – and our planet’s health – at risk.

    There is limited nutritional value in shark fin as well, and certainly there are far better ways to consume collagen and protein. Shark fin is actually an incomplete protein and scientific studies have not proven that the collagen in shark fin offers any health benefits for hair or skin. hence fishing a shark just for its fin is not justified and YES shark fishing should be banned.
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      May 24 2012: I think that the issue goes beyond whether or not a substance is good for you. Tobacco products and alcohol are both extremely detrimental to ones health and to those around you, yet those substances are not illegal to consume, purely for the fact that we as humans have the right to utilize some products for uses other than health reasons. Painting our houses, porcelain toilets and watering our lawns are purely aesthetics which we enjoy, but for the most part are a waste of resources, we could make due with one color protective paint, squatters, and weeds in our lawns, but I for one do not want to live in such a manner. Shark fin soup is a cultural activity, and banning it for the sense that it is not good for your health is a bit mislead.

      I think that a ban on a cultural product is wrong, but I also believe that cutting off a fin and releasing the shark is also wrong because, well, that's just messed up. So the question for me comes down to whether we should kill sharks for all of their potential products, or not harvest them at all. I would side with the stance that we should not ban shark finning, but should ban shark harvesting, or at least place a restriction on how many can be harvested. Although I'm not sure how effective this might be in practice.
      • May 25 2012: Whether it's rhino, whale, shark or gorilla, saving an endangered species is more important than preserving culinary traditions.

        Perhaps Anna Ling Kaye will find the message more acceptable when it comes from Shark Truth, an organization founded by members of the Vancouver Chinese community.
        http://www.sharktruth.com/

        Couples who pledge not to serve shark-fin soup at their wedding are entered into a contest for a free honeymoon trip. The latest winner writes:

        "...when I first told my parents that we weren’t going to serve shark fin at our wedding banquet, they objected … then they hesitated … then we finally were able to convince them that this is the right thing to do for the planet. After we won the contest, my dad was bragging to all his friends about how proud he was of us for standing up for something we believe in. A few weeks later after our banquet in Vancouver, we held a banquet for 880 guests at Jason’s homecountry Malaysia and to our surprise, his parents were so motivated by what we did in Vancouver, they decided to deck out the entire banquet hall with shark conservation messages!"

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