Being someone who grew up wanting to be a marine biologist, this is a subject that has always enraged me. While only recently getting the attention it deserves, shark finning has been one of the most destructive of practices effecting the oceans.
For those who have not heard of this, shark finning is the process of shark fishing purely for their fins. Often the captured sharks are brought aboard, their fins are cut off and the bodies (many times still alive) are thrown back into the waters as waste. These sharks either bleed to death or drown (as most species of sharks caught must remain motile to respire). This is all done because of its demand for the traditional Chinese 'delicacy' Shark Fin Soup.
It is estimated that 73 million sharks are finned annually. However the total number of sharks harvested for their fins in total may reach up to 100 million. This has lead to a wide variety of species of sharks to be listed as threatened or endangered with many more species out there that should be listed but aren't for either lack of data or pressure from fishing groups. In the past 15 years alone, the North Atlantic shark population has dropped by 50%.
As any ecologist knows, destroy the predators and you destroy the ecosystem. Without sharks, the entire ocean biome will collapse. With whole oceanic ecosystems verging on collapse as it is from this and other fishing practices, something must be done now.
Thankfully there has been growing awareness of the situation. Groups like Shark Savers and Stop Shark Finning have been working tirelessly to end this pointless and brutal practice. Currently in the US a bill to ban the trade of shark fins is being considered in California. If this bill passes, it would join Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Guam in banning the practice in the US.
There have been some who say that to ban something that is inherently Chinese is a form of racism. To these people I have little but disdain. To claim that the destruction of the Earth is fine as long as it is in the name of tradition is so utterly wrong as to be almost not worth discussing. Anyone who cannot see this is either being deceitful or is blatantly moronic.
With more people starting to understand and take interest in sharks, it is my hope that perhaps this vile practice may be laid to rest. Seen by future generations as nothing more than a disgusting piece of human history.