Shark Finning: Cruelty in the Ocean

By Kimberly Wolff   

‘Sharks’: when people hear that word, many think of the movie Jaws or other media involving ferocious underwater beasts devouring humans without pause. In reality, people should be visualizing helpless sharks without their fins slowly dying in the ocean solely for the profit of humans. This disgusting practice is taking place right now in the ocean. Shark finning is becoming a huge industry and because of this, sharks are rapidly advancing towards extinction.  And the most frightening part is that not a lot of people even know about shark finning—that or they just don’t care. Shark finning needs to be abolished, and the time to end is now. The sharks are running out of time and if action isn’t taken now, these beautiful animals will no longer exist.

The Prized Shark Fin Image Courtesy of

So just how does shark finning work? After catching the shark, fishermen amputate a shark’s fins while the shark is still alive. Then, they toss the mutilated shark back into the ocean, finless and bleeding. The shark then slowly dies of suffocation, a slow, torturous process that can last for days (unless the shark is lucky enough to be eaten alive by other fish first). Up to 99% of the shark is thrown away according to SharkWater, a 2007 documentary fighting to end the practice of shark finning. The fins from the sharks are then used in tasteless shark fin soup. Shark specialists estimate that 100 million sharks are killed annually just for their fins!  Humans are driving these magnificent animals to their extinction.

So how is shark finning affecting sharks? Well, according to Sea Shepherd, since 1972 the number of Blacktip Sharks has fallen by 93%; Tiger Sharks by 97%; Bull Sharks, Dusky Sharks and Smooth Hammerheads by 99%! Sharks are being caught, finned, and left to die at unbelievable rates. Imagine if the human population decreased by 99%!

Some might wonder, why don’t the sharks just reproduce more and create more of an equilibrium?  Unfortunately, that isn’t a plausible solution—sharks reproduce slowly and infrequently.  It takes about seven years for sharks to mature and be able to physically reproduce, and then most can only give birth to one or two pups at a time.  So if shark finning continues at this rate, without any resistance, it won’t be long until all sharks are extinct just because of one delicacy.

Experts working with the conservation group Sea Shepherd believe that in 10 years, most shark species will no longer be around because of shark finning and longlining. Sea Shepherd describes longlines as made of monofilament and used to catch sharks. At intervals of about a hundred feet, secondary lines are attached and baited.  They are 100 mile long death traps.  Sharks get hooked on and when the longlines are pulled in, they are finned in mass amounts. SharkWater states that longlines, used in shark finning operations, are the most significant cause of losses in shark populations worldwide.

Shark Fin Soup Image Courtesy of

Shark finning is an international problem, which makes it very difficult to control.  Oceanic Defense states thatChinais a leader in the shark fin industry—they are responsible for 50 to 80 percent of the shark finning industry.  People say banning shark finning will mess with China’s economy.  But the reality is that shark finning will be stopped eventually, either from banning or from the extinction of sharks.  So either way,Chinawill have to stop shark finning.  Hopefully, for the sharks’ sake, the end of the practice will come about as a result of the former.

And what can one do to help stop this underwater genocide? One can sign petitions, spread awareness about the atrocities of shark finning, and refuse to eat at restaurants that sell shark fin soup or other shark fin products.  Doing this puts pressure on the restaurants to stop selling shark products in order to get customers.

But this will only work if everyone works together.  Tell everyone to take shark fin soup off the menu! As Leonardo DiCaprio recently tweeted: “This is our last shot. Please help.”

Featured Image Courtesy of

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