In 1997, Costa Rican Randall Arauz managed to get video of sharks being finned by Taiwanese fishermen in his country’s waters. That video helped light a movement on fire. He explains in this video (warning – graphic shark-finning content):
Costa Ricans were outraged and many worked to end shark finning in their waters. A total ban was finally signed just a few months ago.
But the trade goes on, as a tragic demand is supplied with fins from sharks around the world. Weeks ago, photographers Alex Hofford and Gary Stokes documented a shark fin-drying operation, on a Hong Kong rooftop by the sea (slideshow):
Alex Hofford wrote “We estimated 30,000 fins from around 4,000 sharks.” When he snapped his photos another day, Gary Stokes estimated there were 15,000 to 20,000 fins laid out to dry on the rooftop on Hong Kong island ahead of an anticipated surge in demand over Lunar New Yearin February this year.
The Pew Environment Group says “Up to 73 million sharks are killed every year to primarily support the global shark fin industry, valued for the Asian delicacy shark fin soup.”
Primary markets are in Asia, but shark fin is sold everywhere, from Manhattan’s Chinatown to Bangkok’s sidewalks (slideshow):
Here’s the good news — there’s action around the world to turn the tide, and there is hope:
- some governments, like the state of California and nations in Central America, are banning the sale shark fin products.
- some transporters like Cathay Pacific are refusing to accept illegal shark product cargo.
- nations are creating shark sanctuaries - the Cook Islands and French Polynesia recently declared 6.7 million square kilometers of their waters as a protected zone for sharks.
- chefs around the world are removing shark fin soup from their repertoires.
- people like Yao Ming, Richard Branson, and Gordon Ramsay are leveraging their celebrity, speaking out against shark finning.
- groups like WildAid, Pew Environment Group, the Hong Kong Shark Foundation and numerous others around the world are working to stem the demand, increase enforcement of laws, and ensure future shark populations.
Check out our Twitter list of shark groups and advocates. Sign a pledge against shark fin soup. Lobby your government to ban shark fin trade and enforce it. Donate your time or money. A key predator of the ocean, and therefore the ocean’s food chain, depends on it.
And finally, have seven minutes? This video is worth watching, showing the route of shark fins from sea to market: