This week’s Vancouver Sun featured a series of stories on the precarious situation of sharks. All over the world, the numbers of sharks of all species are declining at an alarming rate. Sharks have been around a long time – they are descendant from an ancient lineage of fish with cartilaginous skeletons. These bad boys of the seas have been around in some form or another since before the time of dinosaurs! But over the last century and a bit, they’ve been mislabeled as killers, ignored by biologists, and now hunted voraciously to make soup.
I made the mistake of reading the comments in the Vancouver Sun article and was soon incensed by the level of ignorance. Many comments suggested that the oceans would be better off without the presence of these “vicious” predators. Yes, sharks are predators. But removing the predator from the food chain is disastrous. Look at the UVic bunny situation – it’s a classic example of what happens when prey animals are allowed to run rampant without a natural predator to keep populations under control.
And while it is true that sharks have always been hunted for food, like many other fisheries, it has progressed to a level that is unsustainable. Humans have become better hunters and the demand for shark products has never been greater. But now, we cannot even make the claim that they are hunted for food. It is the demand for shark fins that fuels a majority of the shark hunt. The fins are so valuable and command so much money in Asian markets that many fisherman will simply cut of the fins and throw the shark back.
Luckily, sharks are starting to get more attention from both the public and academia. More and more people are rejecting the necessity of shark fin soup at Asian weddings and questioning the need to eat something that is endangered.
For more information, please consider “Sharkwater” – a documentary about one filmmaker’s experience with the plight of sharks.
[Photo from reefnews.com via Google Images]