Karin’s post on shark meat’s high mercury levels made it clear: a bowl of shark fin soup is a bowlful of poison. But a slower death awaits people who depend on healthy seas.
That means all of us. Because the food chain’s myriad links go back to where life started - in that primordial soup, the sea. Global warming, marine pollution, and overfishing have already destroyed countless ocean ecosystems. Depleted, suffocated oceans can’t nourish life on our planet. Ultimately, sick oceans won’t support the intricate web that we humans depend on for our food.
Who can, in good conscience, sit down at a restaurant table and order a dish of shark fin soup anymore? The satisfied diner pays his bill and walks away now, but his children and grandchildren may go ecologically bankrupt paying for that bowl of soup in the future. Ironically, laws protecting Red Sea sharks have only attracted poacher’s attention to the region. So what can you, the individual, do to protect sharks and the ocean’s health? Easy. You can refuse to eat shark and other endangered species, like bluefish tuna, and say why.
Here’s what the Red Sea conservation body HEPCA says about sharks and the ecology:
As top oceanic predators, they are of fundamental importance to the balance of the marine ecosystem. Removing them on a large scale has severe consequences through succeeding layers of the marine food web. It has altered other species’ abundance, distribution and diversity, and impacted the health of a variety of marine habitats, including sea grass beds and coral reefs.
A recovery from depletion is hard to accomplish, since most of the larger shark species have a very low reproductive potential; they take years to reach sexual maturity and produce very few young.
Shark fins are profitable – a billion-dollar industry. And where there’s so much money involved, humanitarian issues get dumped overboard, like shark bodies. Fins, you see, don’t take up much room in a fishing boat. Poachers often cut the fins off their catch and then throw the living, mutilated shark back into the water.
Equally barbaric are poacher’s fishing methods. Long line fishing, a method using lengths of monofilament that stretch from 1 to 100 miles, is a popular way to catch shark. The photo above shows a hammerhead shark caught in a long line. The shark-poaching problem is compounded, because may other creatures become entangled and die as well – legally protected leatherback turtles, dolphins, and albatrosses being only a few.
Contrary to popular ideas of sharks as ferocious, man-hunting monsters, the big fish rather shy away from humans intruding on their underwater world. The video below shows sharks serenely gliding through the waters with only a mild curiosity about the divers around them. (The soundtrack is thrilling, too.) Is it worth sacrificing these majestic creatures, and hurting the oceans – for a mere bowl of soup?
More on threats to Red Sea Sharks on Green Prophet:
- Egypt’s Red Sea Sharks Face Extinction
- Governor Bans Recreational Fishing in Southern Sinai
- Egyptian Authorities Kill the Wrong Sharks
Photo of hammerhead shark trapped in long fishing line via Stop Shark Finning.
Miriam Kresh also blogs at Israeli Kitchen.