Shark Finning–When Predators Become the Prey

The world economies are constantly facing turmoil in the realms of politics, finance, religion and what not. Countries recognise problems and try to come up with panaceas, yet nothing ever really provides long term solutions and helps in sustaining the environment. This is mainly because most countries ignore the biggest elephant in the room, the doomsday that everyone knows we are heading towards. If we do not take any severe measures to prevent the end from happening, we might face it soon. Climate change is rapidly affecting all the places in the world with several countries experiencing severe extremities of weather. Now, our oceans are under threat too and the main cause for this imbalance in the ecosystem apart from over-fishing is shark finning.

Shark finning is an illegal activity that takes place in almost all the major countries of the world, especially those that border the oceans. The process involves shark fin traders cruelly stripping the sharks of their fins while they are still alive and then, the writhing bodies of the sharks are thrown back into the ocean. As the sharks are now finless and unable to swim or filter the oxygen through their gills, they sink to the pit of the ocean and die out of suffocation or get eaten by other predators. Despite the enforcement of several policies and acts in countries like the United States and the banning of shark finning, the illegal trade still continues in the deep waters.

We have all grown up watching movies like Jaws, Deep Blue Sea, The Shallows and other films where sharks are the deadly antagonists killing every living creature that comes its way. This has given most of us the idea that sharks are terrible creatures and that the world will do much better without them. Unfortunately, the scary aquatic animal that we are so frightened of plays a very important role in the marine ecosystem. Without sharks, the coral reefs would become extremely unclean and there are several trickle-down effects of this on other species in addition to an entire part of the marine ecosystem being severely affected. Sharks prey on predatory aquatic organisms that usually consume parrotfish which is responsible for keeping the coral reefs clean. If sharks are completely wiped out, then the other predatory organisms will eat up the parrotfish and hence, the reefs would be overrun by algae. Moreover, removing sharks from the oceans would cause the carbon dioxide levels to increase and ultimately contribute to climate change.

Shark finning is primarily carried out to make an elitist dish known commonly as the shark fin soup, which is deemed to be extremely expensive implying that only a small section of the society can actually afford it. Sometimes, the shark fins are traded up to twenty thousand or thirty thousand dollars due to the fact that the procurement of such fins is a very tricky business and the demand for it is usually very high. Since the returns that these traders get from selling the fins are very, very high, the trade still continues to take place in spite of strict laws implemented by governments across the world. It is also extremely troublesome to monitor the activities that take place in the international waters and this provides a leeway to many of the shark fin traders to simply dump the bodies of the sharks back into the ocean and carry the fins alone back to the coast which in turns saves them a lot of money as the shipment weight is comparatively reduced.

Many of the shark species like the hammerhead sharks, basking sharks, mackerel sharks and so on are now listed as endangered species in the IUCN Red List. This is a serious environmental concern for all and serious regulatory measures must be taken in order to prevent the sharks from going extinct. It is high time for people to realise the importance of sharks and ensure their longevity, thereby withholding climate change.

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