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: shark fishing for eating the animal is i think OK. a different thing is to catch a shark, cut down the fin and throw the living animal back to the ocean. but it does not matter what one's tells about it. it is a valid point to treat all killing immoral.

    the important is the way we do it. i don't think we should ban it. i think we should attack the problem on the demand side. explain to people what they eat and how it gets on the table. if you are a person who says, damn sharks, i don't care if they die a slow painful death. i just want to eat that jelly like thing with no flavor whatsoever floating around in a chicken stock, so at least something has a flavor, because that is my *culture*, and i want to protect it, so if you say that, actually i'm okay with it. except i won't make business with you, i won't allow my daughter to marry you, and i'm not going to have a beer with you.

    ps: i don't have a daughter. but if i had.
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      May 24 2012: In my opinion, there are three kinds of people . some people choose shark fins because they think it is rare and can prove their status; some people like eating shark fins because they think it is great benefit for health; some people choose shark fins for no reason, they think this is a part of their culture. In fact, among these people, many don't know how it gets on the table and this will do how big suffer to shark. If they learn more about these. how many sharks could escape the disaster. After all, the nature of man is originally good.
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        May 25 2012: Do you think that enforcement of shark fishing bans would encourage more people to become educated on the subject? I'm curious as to what would come first, a cultural change where the people would want the bans put in place, or bans that would inspire a cultural shift.
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          May 25 2012: I think a cultural change would need to come first, beginning with education and then enforcing a ban. Placing a ban on a good with high demand is not going to inspire people to research the methods. If people are informed about the practice of finning, they may be more inclined to initiate and support a ban on the practice and maybe eliminate shark hunting all together.
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          Wu Meng

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          May 25 2012: In China, there is a saying goes : painting a picture with two brushes at the same time--work along both sides. That is to say, we can enforce it in law and education at the same time.
          And I think education is more important. The enforcement of bans just regular people's behavior and tell them that they can't do this. However, why they can't do this? the bans have another function : to attract more people to learn the truth behind a bowl of soup. I don't know whether government will pass this ban, but the proposal and discussion of this ban is good for education. It will arouse report which come from internet, TV, news paper, magazine and so on.In fact , not just shark fins, there are so many wildlife, plants and animal, need people's protection, today we enforce shark fishing bans because there are too many sharks killed and they are facing extinction, tomorrow maybe we will find another plant and animal facing extinction.What shall we do? We always be a little late for protection after a kind of wildlife facing extinction. Certainly, this is just a question in my mind, I don't know whether there is any way to solve it. As to shark fishing,combine bans with education, I think, maybe is better.
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          May 25 2012: how do you inspire anything with ban? just think about it in clear abstract terms.

          people do X
          i ban activity X
          are people more educated now? can it possibly result in people being any smarter? how?
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          May 30 2012: I feel like a ban on shark fining would not go over well culturally. A more practical method would be to have a sustainable fining practice. Like using all parts of the shark or some how farming them. Keep restrictions on the amount taken from the wild so that the ecosystems do not collapse. But a full ban would never happen in my opinion.
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      May 25 2012: Krisztian, a ban could result in people asking why item X is now banned. This could lead to either self education, or rebelling against the newly imposed ban. However, this does indicate that education would still be a key factor in the enforcement and maintained implementation of a ban. I agree with what Wu said, the two work together in order for everyone to understand the importance of not doing "X", with education being the foundation in order to really change peoples minds.
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        May 25 2012: but anything could theoretically result in people asking that. for example a big campaign. but i would argue that if something is banned, people are not incentivized to think about it. why bother? it is forbidden anyway. i personally can't imagine people being busy reading wikipedia because what they want is banned. marijuana is banned. do people appear more educated on the effects of it? not to me. instead, more likely they will sign petitions, or go to the black market.

        so yes, i think education is the key factor.
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          May 25 2012: Your point about incentive could also be seen the other way. There are many different ways of thinking. If something is forbidden perhaps someone would want to know why, perhaps someone wouldn't care to find out. Either way education clearly becomes the catalyst toward change, whether it comes from a governmental program, a campaign, or a ban. No one can be forced to learn, they have to choose to.
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        May 25 2012: this is not enough to say "could be". if this was enough, it would be good to say "we should rise an orange flag, and it can make people think". you can substitute anything there, and the sentence works.

        that's why we need some introspection and knowledge (mental model) of how people actually think. and hence my example, marijuana. it is forbidden, do you see any more public talk about marijuana than shark fins? i personally don't. most people i know completely ignorant on both topics.

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