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 29 2012: I was interested to see if any polls had been conducted with cultures that consume shark fins. I had wondered if those that consume shark fins are aware of the inhumane ways fins are harvested, or how the demand for such a product are threatening many shark species to near extinction. While I could not find any polls on public awareness or the impacts of finning, I did find a poll suggesting a increased awareness of finning particularly in younger generations of China. In 2010 an online poll of 1500 soon to be wed Hong Kong residents, 65% chose to remove shark fin soup from their wedding menu, and 76% of those 19 years of age or younger were against fin soup in their wedding as well. While very little can be extrapolated from such a small poll taken in a single year, it would be safe to suggest the younger generation of China is either more aware or becoming increasingly away of the negative impacts associated with the hunting and harvesting of shark fins. Even though growing prosperity in China has increased recent demands for shark fins, it is encouraging that younger Chinese may be putting cultural traditions second to the wellbeing of species facing extinction.
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      May 29 2012: Out of curiosity, and I hope this doesn't discourage you as well, is that poll only for Hong Kong, or does it include the rest of China as well?

      I ask this because Hong Kong is an island that went back to the Chinese government relatively recently, and a poll taken from there isn't going to be the greatest reflection on Chinese demographics. This is especially since there are a lot of cultural differences between HK and mainland China, one example being that the main dialect spoken in HK is Cantonese, as opposed to the mainland Mandarin.

      (Note: Although they use the same alphabets/characters/writing system, they might as well be separate languages- I would know because I speak Cantonese and outside of working out some similarities and guesswork, I generally can't understand a Mandarin speaker.)

      Back to the subject, the point I'm trying to make is that just because demand is going down in Hong Kong, it does not mean that mainland China's demand is also going to decrease.
      I do share your hope that they'd start changing their views about this cultural practice though.

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