Monday, March 07, 2011

Banning the trade of shark fins

A note unrelated to climate change: The NY Times reports that the state of California is considering a ban on the sale and possession of shark fins. Frankly, it is hard to believe that dealing in shark fins is not already illegal in North America. There is no better example of a cultural obsession with a particular "delicacy" - in this case, shark fin's soup - contributing to the demise of a wild population.

I took the picture at left just a couple weeks back in a market on the Pacific Coast of Central America. Frankly, it the photo could be from the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean or the western Pacific, I've seen the same thing on the coasts of all the tropical oceans.
You'll notice the fin-less sharks in the bin are all small: the larger sharks are dumped at sea after being "finned". The fin is worth so much more than the meat that there's no value in bringing a big heavy dead shark back ashore, even though it is obviously a potential food source. In Kiribati, people do catch sharks and sell the fins, but at least they also take the shark home to eat.

You don't have to be the least bit interested in marine conservation or the dwindling global shark population to see the practice as finning and leaving the shark behind as ridiculously wasteful. Perhaps a ban of shark fishing may be politically or logistically impossible in today's world, I don't know. I can say that if we are going to continue to catch sharks for human consumption, let's at least catch the whole shark.

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