Sharks need to swim in the ocean, not in your soup

Broad Reach

Chaz Carnevale, English 4 Honors

Chaz Carnevale’s understanding of and concern for shark preservation derives from her own research and  her experience last summer shark diving in the Fiji Islands with Broad Reach. Chaz plans to study marine biology next year close to the Gulf at Eckerd College. The video provides background to the Broad Reach program.

Sharks have lived on earth for millions of years, even pre-dating the dinosaurs.  In the past, sharks have been the top predators of marine life, and stories about them make have made them the target of fear by humans.  Although this fear drives the entertainment business, these fears are based more on myth and not informed reactions.

 Currently there are around 480 species of sharks on the planet ranging from about eight inches to 41 feet.  Out of those 480 species, over 200 are endangered.  Sharks are being brutally killed worldwide for their fins. As caretakers of this earth, people have a responsibility to care for all of the creatures and to stop this injustice.

Sharks are vital aspects to the ecosystem.  On the trophic pyramid, sharks are the top section known as apex predators.  Apex predators have Top Down Control on an ecosystem.  Top Down Control simply means predators control the entire food web.  When sharks are removed specific areas suffer Death by Predation, which means that once a predator is removed,  everything else dies as well.  Ultimately,  this predation causes trophic cascade, which means when any aspect of the food web is removed negative consequences occur.

Scientists estimate that humans slaughter as sport fishing or shark finning 50-100 million sharks each year, a statistic that is equivalent to about three sharks per second.  As part of that statistic, the process of shark finning kills 38 million of sharks.

Shark finning is the practice of removing the fins of a shark while the shark is still alive and throwing the shark back into the water to die.  The finned sharks die from either drowning, starvation or as food slowly eaten by other creatures.  The fin itself is prepared in  frozen or dried form and contains high levels of mercury with no flavor.

Shark fins are highly valued for Shark Fin Soup, which is a delicacy in most Asian cultures and can be found at weddings and other high-class events.  The soup costs around $100 per bowl and in previous years only the privileged had the opportunity to buy the soup.  Recently, the middle class has been able to buy shark fin soup, which increased the demand and the massacre of sharks.

Shark conservation is one of the most crucial campaigns that humans all over the age should support,  and yet people seem to overlook the issue.  Throughout the years sharks have been portrayed in fiction and media as man-eaters that purposely attack humans for food and for amusement.  The term “man-eater” causes humans to fear sharks, when in reality sharks do not eat humans.  Most shark attacks recorded have no relation to food and merely happen because the shark reacted to a perceived threat. Sharks do not like the taste of humans and tend to spit out the person once they taste him or her.

Negative shark myths need to be addressed as fictitious in order for sharks to survive.   Educational programs and aquariums have jumped on the bandwagon recently to help dispel these myths and bring awareness to the truth about sharks.

Proponents for shark finning claim that the high cost of Shark Fin Soup brings in cash flow for the area selling the fins.  However, studies in Fiji show the average-size dead shark sells for about $500 while one live shark brings in around $10,000 per year.  Sharks take a while to reach maturity so constantly taking sharks out of the ocean causes the population to decrease, a decrease that  ultimately results in damage to the environment and a loss of money for the region.

Every creature on earth deserves our attention and care to continue balance of the ecosystem, and sharks should not be forgotten.  As many shark defenders say, “I enjoy watching sharks swim in the ocean, not in my soup.  Stop shark finning.”