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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 28 2012: You need to make a concerted effort to look at the big picture. A world wide ban on shark fishing seems hard to understand if you live in an area where sharks are not endangered. (An interesting fact. There are more shark attacks reported in Australian waters that the rest of the world combined) They are of course still comparatively rare. It is easy to get caught up in the enthusiastic fight to save an endangered species but there are vast regional differences. Finning is of course a grotesque waste of resources if nothing else.
    Just to demonstrate the idea. In Australia we are often subjected to ad campaigns telling us how evil we are for culling the kangaroo population because Americans think kangaroos are endangered. The two species culled are the Eastern Grey and the Red. The numbers of both species are far greater now than ever in history because they inhabit cleared farm land and have thriven since white settlement.
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      May 28 2012: Yeah, I went camping near Exmouth in Western Australia and we couldn't even drive at dusk through the park because there were so many kangaroos out! Hundreds, just waiting on the side of the road. It was crazy. You definitely need a perspective on populations before you make a species conservation plan.
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      May 28 2012: Peter: I agree with you here that the big picture has a complexity of issues that no few paragraphs can come close to describing. There are undoubtedly numerous populations of sharks, and for that matter, any number of organisms that can be killed and utilized in a sustainable manner and an overall ban on shark fishing would be preposterous. It is crucial that we take each case species and ecosystem into account in a completely new light every time someone is trying to set regulations because all species in different regions of the globe need certain criteria to survive.
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      May 29 2012: I agree that a global ban is unreasonable and I think that regional bans may not be the best approach either. However, the practice needs to be regulated more intensely at a regional and global scale. Finning is cruel and absolutely wasteful. One approach could be to set a cap on shark fishing that would vary based on abundance, with strict regulations on treatment. The sharks that are hunted for their fins would be euthanized before they are removed and their bodies sent elsewhere for medical research or some other purpose.

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