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: We cant regulate fisheries by international treaty. The Eastern Bluefin tuna quotas set by the regulatory body ICCAT is estimated to be 30X higher than the carrying capacity. Sharks are even harder to regulate and are more vulnerable biologically. The problem is how we fish for other fish. In the tuna and longline fisheries historically over half the fish caught were sharks. Oceanic Whitetips populations were seriously impacted. The recent increase in fin demand has essentially sounded the death knell, because now they have value as a product.
    We need better management of fisheries eg. length, depth and hook type on longlines.
    We can help protect sharks by eating less tuna and swordfish but we also have to reduce the demand for shark fin.
    To begin with we need to ban shark finning internationally at the UN level.
    All countries not just the 30 or so who have laws should ban the practice.
    In Asia we need a consumer education and regulation approach like we did in California to ban the trade and sale of shark fins.

    In the US where we are considering shark fin trade bans on the eastern Seaboard, we need to ensure that domestic shark fisheries dont expand to fill a market niche and create overfishing of domestic populations.

    There is no demonstrably sustainable shark fishery. Like here on the west coast commercial pressure have cause economic collapse and local extirpation. Sharks that are highly migratory like Great White Sharks are protected here but traverse international longline fisheries annually. Developing nations who manage local stocks and rely on sharks as food need to fish them but have to do so sustainably. A recent expedition to the Philippines by the California Academy of Sciences discovered that local sharks off Luzon had been fishes out almost completely, primarily to supply the shark fin trade.

    Shark Stewards is dedicated to stopping the shark fin trade, banning shark finning and stopping unsustainable harvest of sharks. sharkstewards.org

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