Thursday, September 23, 2010

Shark-finning puts species on verge of extinction

Sharks in Deep Trouble : by filmmaker and shark conservationist Lesley Rochat, in South Africa

From Wired

It’s estimated that as many as a million sharks a year are killed just for their fins.

Shark-finning is a cruel practice. Sharks are caught on long lines, or in nets, regardless of size or species. The shark is often stabbed or clubbed, to be less of a threat to the fisherman. The shark’s fins are then cut off and the shark is thrown back into the water, alive, to be eaten by other fish as it sinks to the bottom.

Shark-finning has increased over the past decade for a number of reasons, including increasing demand for shark-fin soup and traditional cures, improved fishing technology and improved market economics, according to the conservation group Shark Water.

Shark fins go for big money. A single dried fin can fetch up to $300.

A growing Asian middle class now has access to shark-fin soup, a dish once reserved for royalty. Cities like Shanghai have multistory shopping centers dedicated to fish and animal sales, which include bin after bin of shark fins.

Local Asian markets in the United States and Europe supply shark fins to eager customers. And shark fins are increasingly found in other products such as energy drinks, pet supplies, makeup, vitamins and homeopathic medicines.

Consequently, many species of shark may already be on the way to extinction, which could be bad news for the entire ocean ecosystem. According to the
National Shark Research Consortium, “Sharks are involved in several steps of this web including feeding on the sick and dying, and feeding on larger animals such as whales, seals and tuna, which have few predators.”

Laws have been enacted to protect the shark in Hawaii, the Maldives and Palau, which have no–shark-finning zones, The conservation group
Sea Shepherd is using new strategies, including sniffer dogs, to fight shark-finning in the Galapogos.

Scientists are backing up these efforts. Marine biologist
Mahmood Shivji of the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is using DNA to help law enforcement agencies convict smugglers, and his research has shown that hammerheads from the Atlantic Ocean end up in Hong Kong seafood markets.

In its
video, Wired speaks to scientists and conservation groups about the severity of the situation and what is being done to fight back.

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