An estimated 100 million sharks are killed every year with fins from up to 73 million used for shark fin soup, primarily to supply the market in Mainland China. A pair of shark fins can sell for as much as US$700 per kg in Asia. Some shark populations have declined by up to 98% in the last 15 years and nearly one third of pelagic sharks species are considered threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Our goal is to measurably reduce this consumption of shark fin in China and Southeast Asia. In 2006, when we started our shark fin campaign, knowledge of the problem in China was negligible. Surveying showed that 75% of Chinese were unaware that shark fin soup came from sharks (the dish is called “fish wing soup” in Mandarin), while 19% believed the fins grew back, and few understood the impact on shark populations.
1. Choose sustainable seafood.
Shark populations everywhere are impacted by fisheries, both directly as target species, often for their fins, and indirectly as bycatch – the unintended catch of non-target species. So choosing not to eat shark fin soup is only the first step. Choosing to purchase sustainably sourced seafood, with limited bycatch, can also help sharks.
Seafood Watch produces a smart phone app and downloadable, regional pocket guides for the U.S. so everyone can have access to information for making the best choices in buying seafood. Click here for the app, which is also available in Canada via iTunes or Oceanwise.
Also, consider reducing the amount of seafood you consume if you are concerned about mercury in fish. You can calculate your mercury intake here.
2. Engage in responsible shark ecotourism.
Shark ecotourism is good for local economies and can be very good for shark conservation, making the animals worth more alive than dead. If you are already a shark diver, you can focus your 2016 adventures on countries that are promoting sustainable shark diving and have established shark sanctuaries — the Bahamas and Palau, for example. Avoid countries that are not protecting their sharks — Costa Rica, for example. Do some online research and make a few inquiries before choosing a shark diving operator to assure that they 1) have a solid safety record, and 2) are affiliated with reputable and effective conservation and/or research.
You can learn more about the value of shark ecotourism via Shark Savers.
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