Here is another proof how human beings sometimes miss out on big opportunities while focusing on short-term gains. Sharks today need our pity. Indiscriminate fishing is driving the shark population to extinction
Sharks that ruled the ocean floor for over 400 million years were called sea dogs by the Mariners. The mere presence of the apex predators kept the marine populations of fishes, crabs, oysters, scallops and turtles under control and coral reefs at the seabed healthy. They were proving to be so beneficial to the ecology economy and long-term human survival that it was difficult imagining a life on planet earth without them.
Sharks keep the ocean’s complex food webs in balance by feeding on the fishes in the food chain and ensuring that they do not become too populous or overfeed on their prey. Can you imagine the impact on the delicate aquatic ecosystem without the sharks? Without the sharks, unbalanced growth of cow nose rays will damage the clams, oysters and scallops so much that the shellfish might become extinct. The grouper fishes will eat all the parrotfish that protect the coral and eat the algae off the reefs. In short, there will be chaos and the whole fishing industry will be affected.
There are, of course, other direct benefits of leaving sharks free to swim around in their natural habitats. One of them is shark ecotourism – a new $314 million and growing form of tourism encompassing all forms of shark watching activities that is catching up worldwide
“Sharks are worth more in the ocean depth than the soup bowl, ”a new study by Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada concludes.
Some 29 countries worldwide including USA, South Africa, and Australia are direct beneficiaries of the shark ecotourism and making good profits out of it. Such activities like shark watching are attracting 590,000 tourists and creating more than 10,000 jobs. Already it is a business worth $ 314 million worldwide and projected to double by 2033.
An estimated 73 million sharks are killed every year to meet the big demand for shark-fin soup a delicacy in China, Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as Chinese restaurants around the world. Shark based products dry fins, fin rays and bones are in great demand all over China, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Shark fin soup is a status symbol and sine-qua-non of luxury dining. Shark fin soup is served on social occasions to impress guests and as a celebration drink on special occasions. The practice of consuming Shark fin soup dates back to the Ming Dynasty China. It was supposed to be one of the eight exotic seafoods- a rare and delicious meal fit for emperors. Later, with the growth of prosperity, the Chinese middle class considered it as a matter of honor and prestige to serve it during weddings, banquets, and important business deals.
It’s supposed to be an energy giving aphrodisiac and appetizer that prevent heart disease and lowers cholesterol. Shark fin rich in iron, zinc, riboflavin, and phosphorus is used to cure various kidney, lung and bone ailments in Chinese medicine. Some people also attribute it to have anti-cancer properties. In Chinese food therapy and books like Tao of Healthy Eating and Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen the overall well-being of humans depends on the manner in which the food is cooked and eaten.
It is much in demand. Almost 83% of participants in an online survey conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature had consumed the soup in their lifetime. 35% of participants of another survey by the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association claimed to have had consumed the soup in the past one year.
But what makes the fin soup all the more repulsive is the cruel practice called ‘shark finning.’ As a part of this process, the fins of living sharks are cut off, and the remaining body is thrown back into the ocean for the Shark to die in pain.
That is because shark fins command a heavy price — around US$450 per pound. A bowl of exotic fin soup in any Cantonese restaurant can cost anything over $100 whereas there are hardly any takers for shark meat that is practically worthless. Fin accounts for around seven per cent of a shark’s weight, but for over 40 per cent of its total value.
After cutting away the SShark fins, fishermen rather throw away the trapped shark into the sea instead of bringing it ashore and adding to the weight on their fishing trawlers.
The cut, shark fins can be very easily processed, dried and stored. That is why many people are entering this business. Globally, the shark fin trade is worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year. China and Hong Kong, are the main buyers of the shark fins.
But look at the other side of the story- around 100 million sharks killed every year. 30 percent of shark species are threatened or near-threatened with extinction because of the wasteful and inhumane practice of shark finning.
Sharks are choosy; they take a long time to mature, mate and produce few offspring. Sharks breed infrequently and may take over a decade or more to reproduce. All this makes them all the more vulnerable to overfishing.
Besides soup, Shark parts can be used for oil, cosmetics, and paints.
Shark is common seafood in Europe, Japan, Australia and some Asian countries. Meat of shark, tuna, and swordfish contains high level of mercury. Seafood Watch warns American consumers to avoid sharks. U.S. FDA also prohibits the intake of shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish meat among children and pregnant women.
Shark liver oil is rich in vitamin A has been used to help treat cancer, skin conditions, and respiratory ailments and radiation sickness. Animal data suggest SLO may improve fertility. Alkyl glycerol in it may work as immune system stimulant.
Shark skin, with its microscopic teeth like scales, was once used as a fine grade of sandpaper. The shark leather after removing the thorny scales, is used for making shoes, belts, and handbags.
Isn’t it irony that a whole Shark dies…. just for the tail in the soup bowl. At this rate, there would be no Sharks left by the end of this century. What a useless way to die!!