Would you eat shark fin soup? Please, tell me that the answer is ‘NO!’. Nearly a third of all shark species are endangered, due to wreckless killing – mostly for soup. Proceed at will, but the article contains some gruesome pictures.
The champions’s tragedy
Sharks are on top of the food chain – they have been for 400 million years, 100 million years since before dinosaurs even appeared on land. They are the most adapted, the most agile, probably the deadliest creatures in the world. Yet their numbers are dramatically declining because people want to eat shark fin soup, considered a delicacy in several parts of the world, America included, it seems.
Most of the times, the fate they suffer is absolutely dramatic: the sharks are captured, their fins are cut off, and then they are released back into the water, only to suffer an excruciating death, unable to move, exiled at the bottom of the sea. Each year, humans kill over 100 million sharks worldwide, including the tens of millions killed only for their fins.
Also, not only are sharks remarkable creatures, but they are also vital to the health of the oceans: as top predators, or ‘apex’ predators, they feed on animals below them in the food chain, helping maintain a balance in oceanic ecosystems, ultimately protecting coral reefs and seagrass beds. Without a sufficient number of sharks, here’s how things will most likely go: animals typically eaten by sharks will grow uncontrolled, and their food supply (which includes coral reefs, algae, other fish, etc) will drop massively, ultimately up to the point of no return, at which the balance of the ecosystem is broken permanently, with cascading uncalculable effects.
Americans eat shark fin soup
A team of researchers from the Pew Environment Group and Stony Brook University in New York set out to collect and genetically test samples of shark fin soup across the United States. They gathered 51 samples from restaurants in 14 different cities. A sample contained scalloped hammerhead, which is endangered, while many contained fin of vulnerable and near-threatened species, including bull, smooth hammerhead, school, spiny dogfish and copper sharks. Interestingly enough, some samples didn’t contain shark DNA at all.
This is the first major shark soup testing ever made, and the results highlight some crucial aspects. First of all, people are consuming sharks, but they don’t really know what they’re eating. Is it a commonly found species, and endangered one, an almost endangered one, or what?
Second of all, the study clearly shows shark fishing has to be stopped as much as possible. As many as 73 million sharks are killed for fins yearly, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. What’s interesting is that several people involved in the study are shark attack survivors, some of which have lost limbs, but are now shark advocates, because they understand the global importance of these magnificent creatures.
Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!