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Who's the Real Killer?

Updated: Feb 6

Roughly 10 people die from shark attacks per year. However, according to the Humane Society, 73 million sharks are killed each year by the global shark trade. Shark Finning is a brutal process where fishermen will capture sharks, cut off their fins, and dump them back into the ocean. After getting mercilessly thrown back into the water, it’s up to either suffocation, starvation, or bleeding out to decide how the fish’s life ends. 

Sharks are not only loveable and famous creatures of the sea but also essential to the ocean’s ecosystem. Shark finning has caused a third of shark breeds to become endangered and if sharks go extinct, the ocean’s wildlife will be set way off balance. All the fish and species that sharks feed on will overpopulate causing those species’ food to become endangered as well. Sharks have a high position in the food chain and essentially control those beneath them causing a domino effect if something drastic happens.

The main demand for shark fins is caused by the creation of a luxury menu item popular in China. The fin is favored at weddings, banquets, and Chinese New Year celebrations—although the limb itself has no particular taste—it is eaten for the texture and the high status it symbolizes. The taste is added in when the fin is cooked as Shark Fin soup. This dish is a Taiwanese delicacy and a popular meal in China and Southeast Asia. Recently, multiple problems have arisen with the dish, and some don't pertain to shark fatalities. People are now worried about the levels of BMAA (a non-proteinogenic amino acid) in the fin becoming a health concern. Although the soup is highly unethical, Chinese culture believes that there are many health benefits like preventing aging, disease, and sometimes even cancer.

Two years ago, in 2022, the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 was passed which bans the purchasing and selling of shark fins in the United States. Not only is this a huge win for sharks, but the bill also includes other ocean conservation projects and allows the US Government to address illegal and unsustainable fishing in the US. This, too, has been causing the endangerment of many aquatic animals such as the most endangered species, the vaquita porpoise, with only ten left on Earth. Unsustainable fishing and bycatching have also been harming the population and putting a dent in this as well will only help this decreasing species.

This bill was passed due to an article from Nature in 2021 that stated the global oceanic shark and ray population have decreased by over 70% in the past 50 years. 

Despite the great news that this bill was back in 2022 and 2023, millions of sharks are still dying each year, showing how this bill may have made it illegal but the buy and sell demand is still very much present. Despite the stigma on sharks for being “killers” and “terrifying,” what do you think they think of us? The millions of brutal acts of shark finning are much more “terrifying” than only 70 attacks and five deaths per year. So who’s the real killer? 

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