Although neither of us are good swimmers, Comet and I love the sea. Whenever we need to really “breathe,” we trek to some of our favorite spots by the shore and look out for the beautiful life that inhabits the ocean. Often, we can see great varieties of shorebirds, crustaceans, mollusks, and even seals. From our small boat, we look down at fish swimming by or jumping out of the water. Occasionally, we come across sand sharks and dogfish sharks swimming near the surface, looking for small fish, crustaceans, or even bluefish to eat. It is a thrill to see these amazingly majestic animals, but it reminds me that even sharks, who are close to the top of the ocean’s food chain, need our help from the exploitation of shark finning.
The barbaric process of shark finning occurs in many different parts of the world’s oceans. Finning occurs when sharks are caught and their fins cut off while they are still alive. The mortally-wounded animals are then thrown back into the sea, but without their fins they swim or breathe effectively. They either die of suffocation or injuries sustained by the capture, or are eaten as easy prey by other fish. And the main reason for this horrible suffering: shark fin soup. In some Asian cultures, shark fin soup is considered a delicacy and a sign of wealth. Because shark fins command so much more money in the market than the meat from the body of the animal, the live but maimed body is tossed aside—thrown back into the ocean. Unimaginable! This also leaves more room on the boats for more fins. The live animal, without the aid of his fins, is left to suffer a painful and unnecessary death.
Many shark species are threatened or endangered, mainly due to finning and overfishing. Although the U.S. and other countries have laws to protect sharks and regulate how fins can be obtained, more needs to be done. Most sharks are caught by foreign vessels in international waters where regulations either do not exist or cannot easily be enforced. Poaching, that is taking fins illegally, is rampant. Cultures that demand shark fins would benefit from education about the cruel practices of finning. Sometimes people are simply unaware of how their food gets to their plate.
Animals don’t need to be cute and cuddly to need our help. Even though images of endangered pandas and tigers grab our attention and pull at our heartstrings, so should the less conventionally beautiful animals, such as sharks. Causing suffering and death to sharks by finning is no different than poaching elephants for their tusks. As a humane society we need to be responsible and vigilant in protecting all animals from cruelty. There is a place in our world-wide ecosystem for all living creatures.
How to help Animals: Read more, Speak on their behalf, Educate yourself and others.