By Elizabeth Flatley
Shark finning, a problem lingering around for decades, proves a clear threat to the shark population. A delicacy, shark fins are used in a luxurious soup called shark fin soup. Often times, fishermen chop off the two dorsal fins located on the top or spine of the shark, the two pectoral fins on the bottom of shark, the caudal fins (tail fins), the anal fin, and the pelvic fin. Sadly, these fishermen frequently toss finless sharks back into the ocean where they either bleed out, or are eaten by other sharks and bigger fish.
With a slow reproductive rate and a high death rate, sharks are prone to extinction. For many species of sharks, they simply cannot reproduce as fast as they are killed. Furthermore, many sharks, including the smooth hammerhead shark and the scalloped hammerhead shark, are already endangered due to deadly finning practices. Precisely 100 million sharks are killed each year resulting in a 60% to 70% decrease in the shark population. If shark finning continues, the quick decline in the apex predators of the seas will indefinitely cause a ripple effect in our oceans, as seen with the decline of the smooth hammerhead and their main prey, rays. The new larger population of rays are eating more and more scallops and bivalves, hurting the biodiversity of the ecosystem and human fisheries as well.
However, people are finally realizing the importance of sharks in the aquatic ecosystem and are slowly making efforts to protect the shrinking population. In 2013, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) added five more species of sharks to the endangered list, giving them further protection. Since 1994, around 22 countries have placed national regulations regarding shark finning. China, one of the biggest consumers of shark fin soup, has also taken steps in decreasing the value of shark fin soup making it less desirable.