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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 25 2012: i think that the sharks have been way over fished and are getting dangerously close to becoming extinct. It isn't just necessary to fix the loophole in the fishing restrictions. I do think that banning all of shark fishing is a little extreme though so i propose that they set a limit on the amount of sharks that can be caught. This limit should definitely only allow for a small amount of sharks to be caught till their numbers can make a rebound. With the world becoming so over populated especial China housing over 1 billion people almost 1 6th of the worlds population people need to start making sacrifices because we just can live like we used to anymore.
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      May 26 2012: I think this would be a good idea. Why shouldn't all fishing policy be the same or at least similar? Many countries have systems resembling cap and trade for fishing that are put into place through purchasing permits for the amount of fish that one wishes to catch. The permits are basically a percentage of the total allowable catch that is set each year after scientific input on what would be acceptable for the fish populations. Obviously, if a species that is being fished is threatened or endangered, there should be policies in place that protect it and its habitat, similar to those in place here in the US.
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        May 26 2012: You propose a very good idea. There are several treaties in place currently that deal with fishing on an international basis. While they may be helping slow down overfishing, it seems that this may not be enough. A lot of damage is still done because of illegal fishing. The best way to combat this is with labeling of the product and awareness. There is an app for iPhone called Seafood Watch that helps you identify ocean friendly seafood. This is a good step forward at least, although much more needs to be done.
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          May 27 2012: I doubt you'll ever be able to get all countries to agree to the proper trade restrictions. Even countries that ARE following international trade restrictions and have inspectors on their boats have managed to corrupt the system in one way or another. There's a BBC article on how many of these inspectors have been bribed, and how thousands of pounds of illegal fish ends up in Japanese markets every year. I've been trying to find it for hours but haven't managed to dig it up.
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        May 28 2012: I do think managing the amount of catch with permits is a good idea. However, how do you determine who gets a permit and who doesn't if there are only so many sharks that can be fished out there. The reason that there is a decline in numbers is because there are too many people fishing for them because of the demand. Do you think that increasing the market price of shark fins would cause the demand to go down and therefore the overall fishing statistics to go down?

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