A fisherman has recently taken it upon himself to define shark life by mere edibility. He attempted to sell shark fins to a Hawaiian hotel restaurant, in the hopes of earning extra money for his crew. The captain pleaded guilty to finning dead sharks at sea, and was fined just $100, because of his cooperation. Whether the sharks he finned were actually dead when he found them remains unknown.
Each year sees the death of tens of millions of sharks because of finning, which is the merciless practice of hacking off the shark’s fins and throwing the body back into the ocean. The sharks will either die through starvation, get eaten alive by other fish or drown; if they are not moving constantly their gills are unable to extract oxygen from the water. Shark fin soup has even become an Asian delicacy.
In Hawaii, it is illegal to sell or distribute shark fins, so why is it that this fishing boat captain received a charge that equates to the price of the world’s most expensive hot-dog? Surely a shark’s fins are worth more than that, and also the price of breaking the law.
If a gravedigger was to hack off the arm of someone before their burial, and insist it was acceptable because they were already dead, a greater penalty than $100 would be bestowed upon them; so why is it that shark life is defined by little more than edibility?
Shark finning is not only barbaric, but their slaughter by ignorant fishermen is resulting in unsustainable death rates, and is resulting in the extinction of many species. This is because sharks regulate the natural balance of oceanic ecosystems. They primarily hunt old, weak or sick prey, which helps to keep the prey population in good proportion and also condition, enabling the stronger animals to reproduce and pass down their genes. Therefore, sharks implement their own influences over the notion of survival of the fittest.
Also; through intimidation, sharks homogenize the behavior of the prey population, and prevent overgrazing of territory. Shark scientists believe this has a greater impact upon marine ecosystems than what sharks consume. For example, a Hawaiian scientist found that tiger sharks have a positive effect upon the health of sea grass beds, because tiger sharks eat turtles, and without the sharks the turtles spent all their time grazing on the best quality, most nutritious sea grass. This resulted in these habitats being destroyed. However, when tiger sharks are present, the turtles will graze over broader areas.
As shark life becomes defined by mere edibility and a fine of $100, it makes us question whether enough is being done in order to preserve the existence of sharks. Without them, the oceanic ecosystem would breakdown, which would actually affect fishermen more than they possibly realize. If people resume shark finning, it will not only affect the ocean, but also have negative consequences for fishermen. This is something people should start taking into greater consideration.
Editorial by Melissa McDonald