Shark fishing and finning is responsible for the shockingly steep decline in the populations of our oceans' apex predators -- as much as 99% drop among several species. Sharks, a vital part of marine ecosystems, are disappearing throughout the world's oceans as they are caught as by-catch, actively fished, and most cruelly, finned.
Thankfully, governments around the globe are picking up on the problem and many are instituting stricter regulations or outright bans on fins or the practice of finning -- catching a shark, cutting off the fins, and dropping it into the sea to slowly die by drowning.
The latest news is a big victory for these important animals: The European Union (EU) officially adopted a strict ban on shark finning late last week.
Saturday ended nearly a decade of battle to close several enforcement loopholes that had permitted some forms of shark finning. Finning has technically been prohibited in the EU since 2003, but an exemption allowed Member States to issue special permits for fishing vessels to remove shark fins on board. In particular, an exemption used by Spain and Portugal allowed some vessels to remove sharks’ fins at sea, which made it nearly impossible to detect and monitor the finning that was occurring.
Somewhere between 80 million to 100 million sharks are killed every year, primarily as by-catch or for their fins, used in a traditional Asian soup though it adds zero flavor and zero nutritional value, and instead posses a heath risk as it contains heavy metals and toxins accumulated in animals that dine high on the food chain.
At the rate at which sharks are being fished, we can expect global population crashes within a handful of decades, which has severe repercussions for the marine ecosystems that depend on these predators.
“At long last, the EU has a real and enforceable ban on shark finning, with global implications,” commented Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe. “The EU catches more sharks than any country in the world, and plays a key role in regional fisheries management organizations where finning remains an acknowledged problem. After ten years with a flawed ban in place, it can now make a serious effort to tackle the issue internationally.”
To learn more about shark finning and the status of sharks globally, we recommend an excellent book: Demon Fish: Travels Through The Hidden World of Sharks