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?


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.


Kirsten Gotting

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    May 25 2012: Perhaps in countries that eat a lot of seafood like here in Australia we should farm shark for consumption and send the fins to Japan as a side line. We fish shark for food here. there are only specific species you can take as they are common, and you can only take fish that are mid-sized. This protects the immature fish from us and us from the mercury in big fish. Mind you the mercury problem occurs in all big carnivorous fish like marlin and sword fish as well.
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      May 27 2012: I think Peter has a great idea. I don't fully agree with the idea of farming sharks because of other ramifications but I do believe that having a closed loop consumption practice would benefit all and am shocked to know that waste of this level happens with live sharks. I understand that the world wastes a great deal of food and that there is food equity problems but I have always assumed the waste was from post consumption/production. To me this is the same as burning a crop of corn just to start a fire. I think the problem is more with the people that are killing shark just for the fin, and less of a problem for the people that are killing them for sustenance, maybe the finners should be the ones that sale to Australia.
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      May 27 2012: I think this is a good idea to use the entire shark if you are going to catch it. Instead of wasting it and letting it die in the ocean. I think passing a law making it illegal to de fin a shark and throw it back could help this situation. If fishermen are forced to take the entire shark on their boats than it will mean less room and hopefully less sharks being caught. May be a good alternative, but definitely more strict regulations are needed.
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        May 28 2012: Shark meat is itself unappetizing (so I'm told) and only the cartilage is actually tasty when cooked. You'd have to come up with some way to use the whole shark. Some kind of animal feed or possibly fertilizer might work. I don't think that you'll have much luck getting people to eat it, unless I'm sorely mistaken about the overall flavor.
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          May 28 2012: Came here to say this. The shark boats dump the de-finned bodies of the sharks back into the water because the shark meat sells so badly. When given a choice, the fishers are going to take as much of the most profitable product rather than lugging around, what they consider, "dead weight." Although I agree that food should not be wasted on the scale such as this, It might not be economically feasible to sell the shark bodies to Australia. By the time the fishers have factored in the lost profit from hauling in the bodies, plus the cost of transportation, the price of shark meat may be too high for the quality of food received by the consumer.
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          May 28 2012: @Matthew,

          It is a matter of branding. Fish sold as Fish'n'Chips has long been classed as "flake" in the old tradition of Australian fast-food - aka shark..

          Everyone seems to be a bit spoiled with having farmed barramundi in their fish'n'chips, but the distinction remains in the cooking (in case you ever got to eat a wild Barrumundi) Flake is more than equal to the farmed fish.

          A friend of mine helped develop "envirotainer" which is the air-freight equvalent of teh "pallet" . THis development was the paradigm shift to enable the global distibution of perishables.

          So the retention of shark meat is a branding issue. No shark needs be wasted - the fishers just have to catch up with reality.

          But then reality will catch up with us - in terms of lost bio diversity that no one saw was essential to our survival.

          No one knows anything.

          We will all live with our lowest common denominators.

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