Shark fin soup: extinction in a bowl

The voracious appetite for a traditional Chinese delicacy is driving shark species around the world into extinction.

Shark fin soup -- once reserved for weddings and other once-in-a-lifetime events -- has long been a symbol of wealth and prosperity in China. With so much of China now experiencing that wealth and prosperity for the first time, the demand for the symbols of that success -- such as shark fin soup -- has expanded enormously.

This feeding frenzy has resulted in a precipitous drop in the populations of several shark species, including the scalloped hammerhead, which the World Conservation Union will officially add to its Red List of Endangered Species later this year. At that time, eight other shark species will also be added to the list.

According to reports, scalloped hammerhead populations have dropped as much as 98% over the last 30 years. The other eight shark species being added to the Red List this year, including the tiger, bull, short-fin mako, silky, smooth hammerhead, dusky and common and big-eyed thresher sharks, have seen drops of 80-95%.

The list was previewed this weekend at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Shark fin soup is particularly unappetizing dish to conservationists, as shark "finning" remains one of the most controversial hunting or fishing activities in the world. Sharks are caught, their fins are chopped off, and the bodies (which are not prized) are dumped back into the ocean -- often alive, where they suffer a horrible death.

Of course, the market supports this activity, as shark fins fetch between $100 and $300 each. At that price, we're not likely to see a drop in shark finning any time soon.

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Unfortunately there is a large demand for shark fins in China. The sharks get their fins cut off while still alive by the finning mafia, who makes more money than the drug dealers.
But there are large amounts of organic mercury in shark meat, which makes women infertile and men impotent. Pregnant women who eat shark run the risk of giving birth to very sick and mentally retarded children. This fact is proven through "Minamata disease" (google it) and has recently been established again by two German universities. We need to educate the public about those facts and the importance of sharks. Being the apex predator, they maintain the biological balance in the oceans. If the sharks die the oceans die and when that happens we'll all die.
Jupp Kerckerinck zur Borg

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