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?


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 30 2012: Culture is a bit of a touchy subject for me my view on it generally proves less than popular, but here I go.

    While I think culture is important and should certainly be considered in situations like this, I think people are too quick to consider culture as an "unassailable" topic, and try to find ways around it instead of confronting it. I think this is large parts due to two reasons.

    1. Culture, in recent years, has come to be considered something set in stone, something that was set in the past and must either stay the same or die. This is akin to people complaining about slang words ruining a language as if languages just pop up out of the ground with an established acceptable vocabulary. These things are malleable, they can adapt. Look at Native Americans. Most of the things they hold sacred were wrecked by settlers but they still have a very strong culture and hold on to many of their beliefs. Obviously it would be better if that wasn’t necessary at all, but it shows that a culture can still persevere in the face of adversity. People treat culture like a vase that will shatter if you touch it, which just isn't true.

    2. People like to say we shouldn't mess with other people’s culture because we can't possibly understand. I think this is ridiculous. Yes, the exact significance of a piece of culture is hard for an outsider to understand, but the idea of giving up something you hold dear for an important or necessary cause is universal. Why people think culture would be exempt from this is beyond me. I've also noticed that a lot of people, even ones from cultures with very strong beliefs, are often willing to give up things for a sufficient reason, but automatically assume that people from other cultures wouldn't be. It's possible that they do in fact hold to their beliefs more tightly than you, but you shouldn't just assume that they do.

    Basically what I'm saying is; culture should be considered a factor in situations like this, not a roadblock.
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      May 30 2012: Also just because you stop doing something doesn't mean it is no longer part of your culture. Australia started as a penal colony, now we have moved on, but it is still part of our culture.
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        May 30 2012: That too! That's part of what I was trying to get at with the Native American example, but I did a terrible job of articulating it.

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