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 28 2012: I wonder, does anyone know if there is a reason for throwing the sharks back after they've been finned? Is there a cultural reason why the sharks that have been finned cannot be consumed in other ways as well?
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      May 28 2012: From what I have come to understand, the rest of the shark is deemed as bycatch. Aka they have no real use for them other than the fins. This seems pointless to me because they are wasting such a valuable resource. These sharks eventually sink to the bottom of the ocean and die, feeding bottom dwellers but it is an unnaturally fast means of killing off apex predators in the ocean that is thus wreaking havoc on the ecosystem as a whole. I would assume that we could utilize the sharks in a more economical manner but the bigger issue here is the total number of sharks being caught and finned is unsustainable in the first place.
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        May 28 2012: I agree that there must be other uses for the rest of the shark's body, even if it is not in Chinese culture. It's incredibly sad to be that these animals are being killed for such a small benefit and are left to die in such an inhumane way. Should sharks continue to be predated on, they should be used for the entirety of the resources that they could provide. In addition, the killing of such an important part of the marine ecosystem so quickly and in mass numbers will no doubt have long-term negative affects on the food chain and potentially humans as well.
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          May 28 2012: It would be interesting to count the total biomass in tonnage that is wasted through these practices. I also wonder how we could utilize these sharks for research at the very least. If people are going to kill them, do you think we could potentially find some new DNA sequencing that could be beneficial to humans?
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        May 29 2012: Sharks can be utilized for medicinal research! They produce a chemical in their livers called squalamine that has possible anti tumor and antibacterial properties. They also have a fully functioning adaptive immune system which can be used as a model for further understanding the immune system in general.

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