For some years now, ocean scientists and many other concerned citizens around the world have been aware of the danger that shark finning is bringing to the world. Sharks are being consumed by the millions, just for their fins. After being brutally definned, their bodies are tossed back into the ocean to die. This is going on in support of a multi-billion dollar industry surrounding the purported benefit of shark fins for human health—a completely unsubstantiated belief. China is especially guilty of contributing to the extinction of sharks worldwide. Here in China, shark fin soup is considered a delicacy, and people pay a premium to consume it.
While many countries are waking up to this disaster, most people here in China are completely in the dark as to what the mass killing of sharks is doing to the ecology of the oceans. Many fancy restaurants in Shanghai and in other cities serve shark fin soup and some restaurants (such as Yu Xin on Weihai Road, where I ate last Sunday) have prominent displays of shark fin cartilege in glass cases. Shark fin soup is especially popular for high-status events such as weddings or official banquets. As far as I know, the Chinese government turns a blind eye to the damage that this industry is doing to the world's oceans.
Without these ancient predators, who mainly consume small fish (despite their image, sharks very rarely attack people and only 5 people die of shark attacks per year) roaming the oceans, the ecological balance is thrown off. Statistics suggest that at least 100 million sharks are killed per year so that people in China (and elsewhere) can eat their shark fin soup.
This is a brutal trade that is destroying the shark population of the world. You can help end it by refusing to eat shark fin soup and by telling restaurants in China not to serve it. Let us hope that in time, China wakes up to the monumentality of this crisis, before all the world’s sharks have been killed.
If you want to learn more about the shark finning industry, I highly recommend the film Shark Water. It’s a beautiful film and a gripping story of the struggle of a few brave people to help stop shark fishing in the Galapagos and Costa Rica—two of the oceans’ greatest preservation areas for sharks, including the hammerhead shark.
Here are some sources for learning more about this issue.