Here's the conundrum as I see it: Can you really call a fishing practice where, much of the time, you catch a particular fish, chop off just its fin and then dispose of the rest of the body, ever really mesh with the spirit of minimizing environmental impact, even if the practice were confined to an abundant species?
I'll answer my own question (you saw that coming, right?): No. It's the acme of wastefulness.
But let's back up.
The Black Fish reports that Western Australia's Fisheries Minister has announced that he will be seeking sustainable certification for local shark finning, tasking the Marine Stewardship Council to analyze whether this might be possible.
The idea is the give some sort of green sheen to hopeful above-board exports of shark fins to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Korea—where, if you didn't already know, shark fin soup is a status dish and ingredients are in high demand.
TBF responds, after a good critique of some questionable green certification of species by MSC:
We simply cannot settle for a feel-good option when it comes to protecting our oceans. The problem is the over-consumption of fish, the fact that too many people eat too much fish, which ultimately are wild animals that once caught can not come back so easily. It is no wonder that increasing number of fish species are under threat from overfishing, we are simply catching too much.
Perhaps if sharks weren't threatened, and perhaps if the only way shark fins were obtained was from species where the entire fish was also eaten, perhaps then some sort of green certification might be justifiable. But none of that is the case.
Some context: Just this week Costa Rica closed loopholes in its laws so that shark finning is completely outlawed; closer to home for North American readers, California has banned shark fin products, as has Toronto.