Photo: Flickr, CC
Laws Need TeethDespite being top predators in marine ecosystems, sharks are more victims than anything else. Industrial fishing is killing millions of them each year, and some species have declined in numbers by more than 90% according to researchers (for example, hammerheads have declined by more than 99% in the Mediterranean). In some places, especially China, soup made with shark fins is considered a delicacy, so to feed that billion dollar industry, sharks are caught, their fins are cut off, and their bodies are thrown back into the water to die slowly. Is anyone doing anything about this before shark populations collapse and their extinction brings marine ecosystems more out of whack than they already are?
Photo: Public domainThe government of Taiwan is trying to do something, but let's hope if won't be a cosmetic change, one more law on the books that isn't being enforced:
Taiwan will next year become the first Asian country to ban fishermen from bringing in dismembered sharks, as part of efforts to prevent finning, a local report said Sunday.
Taiwan's Fisheries Agency (FA) under the Council of Agriculture expects to implement a new regulation to force fishermen to keep shark catches intact until they arrive in port, with violators set to face fines or suspension of their fishing licenses. (source)
Since a whole shark takes a lot more space than just a shark fin, this means that the fishing boats should be able to catch fewer sharks before coming back to shore, and that shark fishing should be less profitable. But this will depend heavily on whether there are inspectors looking at catches and enforcing the law, and if the boats don't just bypass Taiwan and go dock at other ports to drop their fins.
No Half MeasuresA real solution would require a ban on shark fishing by all countries. This would allow shark populations to come back and some form of equilibrium to be restored over time... But how likely is that to happen? Unfortunately, China has a great appetite for fin soup, and stopping that will be very difficult.
A little photoshop fun! Photo: egarc2, Flickr, CC