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: Great point that health concerns must take into account how truly healthy shark meat is. As with all problems, this issue is grounded in social, political, and economic issues. A ban or restriction on shark hunting should be accompanied by tax incentives for those who previously relied on this resource as well as educational programs about the dangers of eating shark meat (ie mercury). I think education is a critical though certainly not sufficient component of dealing with many of today's issues, particularly those regarding climate change and overconsumption. We can ban shark hunting, but this will only have the effect of making the actions of people criminal rather than legal-it will not likely reduce hunting on a broad scale because people are hunting for a reason. Political, education, and economic measures all must accompany changes if we want to see real progress.
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      May 24 2012: I agree, that this issue need to be approached from all angles (political, educational, and economically), however, we need to start somewhere, and that usually begins with education and policy. Of course it would be great if we could create a policy that would accomplish all of the suggestions you mentioned, but it is very unlikely.

      Usually the specific components that reassert and instill the values that the policy was intended to encompass are added to the the law as policy makers and citizens witness the actual impacts of the original policy. From there, people can see what needs to be fixed or emphasized and can be added or changed. Like I said, we need to start somewhere, simply demanding all of these important components in one policy change, and if its not everything we wanted, supporting no policy at all, will be ineffective in the long-run.

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