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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?


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 28 2012: I think that since the prevalence of shark fins in Chinese and perhaps other cultures is very apparent and rooted, it would be very difficult to ban the fishing of sharks altogether. I do strongly oppose the fishing of sharks purely for their fins. The waste of such a creature for such a small benefit and the damage that removing an apex predator from an ecosystem so quickly is a huge problem. However, I think that there can be a compromise here to preserve the species and the ecosystem as well as the culture that depends on them (although I'm not sure how big of an impact removing shark fins from Chinese diet would have, for instance if it is a common good or a luxury). If there was some sort regulation on how many sharks were caught in a certain time period, this could help preserve the species, although this would be a very difficult thing to regulate. Along with this, I think that if sharks are to still be predated on by humans, it should become policy that the entire shark be used for consumption or some other human use. The removal of just the shark's fin, of which it needs to survive, and then tossing the animal back into the ocean is not only inhumane, but is also simply a waste.
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      May 28 2012: I agree whole heartedly with this comment. I have often thought about this issue not as one that can simply become a non-issue due to the deeply rooted cultural traditions in Asian societies. The only solution to this issue that I see as a current and effective choice is that of regulation as you suggested. I firmly support regulation programs to ensure that sharks are protected and allowed to thrive. In addition to your well thought out plan I would add that times of year that shark can be harvested should also be taken into consideration. For instance, it seems highly unethical to practice shark fishing during breeding season if there is one. Not allowing fishing during this crucial time would allow populations to regain some gumption and biomass. Eventually it could be possible to eliminate the practice all together but that is not a near future. There has been however a lot of newly founded preservation of nature and biodiversity in Asia and China specifically so I firmly believe that there is hope.
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      May 29 2012: I agree with both of your comments very strongly. I am against wasting sharks just for their fins, just as with hunting any animal, or fishing anything, I believe that the whole creature should be put to use, otherwise its death was useless and wasteful.
      I also agree that regulation of shark fishing could be very useful, and Nicholas, I especially like your comment of banning fishing during breeding periods. That would be a very crucial time where the sharks could either be saved or destroyed.
      And once again, Nicholas, I agree with you that yes there is hope. There is still a lot that can be done to save the sharks, and it should be done.

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