Over 50,000 Sharks Poached in the U.S. Gulf, but Some Good News for Embattled Apex Predators
Posted March 17, 2011
Of the 26 – 73 million sharks killed each year for their fins, the Washington Post yesterday reported that over 50,000 sharks are poached from the U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico (this number is based on a 2005 study, so likely many more are killed). The Mexican fishermen who catch these sharks risk confiscation of their boats and capture by the U.S. Coast Guard because sharks fins are such a valuable commodity.
The fins caught in Mexico are sent off to Asia where they are processed for shark fin soup and shipped off to markets throughout Asia, and sometimes they are sold back to restaurants or stores in the U.S.
Photo by eazy traveler, via Flickr Creative Commons
California is the largest market for shark fins outside of Asia, and most of the fins are imported through Los Angeles and San Diego. It’s a terrible irony that sharks caught illegally in U.S. waters could then later be legally sold back to U.S. consumers. So even if shark finning (the practice of cutting off a shark’s fins and dumping the remainder of the animal– usually still alive – back in the ocean) is banned or regulated in some places, the only way to stop this wasteful practice is by making it illegal to sell, trade, or possess shark fins.
This is exactly what California’s proposed legislation, AB 376, would do. A few days ago, according to China.org, a Chinese lawmaker has proposed that China also ban the trade in shark fins. Shark finning has depleted global shark populations to the point that nearly one third of open-ocean shark populations are threatened with extinction. One way or another, shark finning will probably end soon: either because shark populations around the world are wiped out, or because we choose to stop this unsustainable practice. With shark populations dwindling there’s no time to waste: we can choose the latter path before it’s too late.
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