Shark Fin Ban: Time To Put It Into Practise
I went for yum cha last week with my daughter for her friend's birthday party. As we walked in there was tank upon tank of fish and lobsters on death row. It was interesting for me to watch the children's reactions as most of them banged on the tanks, amused, yet my daughter sadly went to the lobster, looked at me and said, " Mum, don't people realise that lobster is probably 80 years old and now they are just going to kill him?" She was referring to a campaign I showed her last year.
What it reminded me was that our reactions are often determined by what we know and what we have been taught is right or wrong.
It was then no surprise to me when she was horrified to see shark fin soup on the menu... so was I...
Wasn't shark fin fishing banned in Australia?
I wasn't wrong. It is illegal to fin sharks in Australian waters but I was shocked to find it is still ok to sell them. Call me silly but doesn't it make sense that if we think a practice is cruel and detrimental enough to make it illegal, then we should also make the bi-product of this action prohibited?
Shark fin soup is served as a status symbol in Asian cultures and as the middle class in China grew, so did the affordability of shark fin soup, increasing the demand for it- which is a big problem.
Sharks, who are biologically more like whales than fish, are one of the oldest species on the earth, estimated to of survived over 400 million years. Yet we are killing between 70-100 million per year causing a 90% decrease in numbers over the last 30 years. Now with a third of all open ocean shark species threatened with extinction. This is a issue because sharks are a keystone species that are long-lived, slow growing and late to reach reproductive age which means they take a long time to recover from over-exploitation.
"Of the 100 million sharks killed each year, 75% end up in shark fin soup."
Sharks are caught and killed predominately for their fins because they are highly lucrative, with fin products worth up to 700 times more than shark meat, fetching thousands of dollars. Due to the high value of the fin, it also means fishers prefer to fin the shark at sea so they are able to bring in more fins than if they brought in entire shark carcasses.
Ultimately this means the sharks are caught, pulled onto the boat, fins are painfully sliced off while they are still alive and then they are dumped back into the ocean to die a prolonged and painful death by drowning, bleeding or being eaten while helpless to move.
Many divers have witnessed sharks stranded on the bottom of the ocean, finless but still breathing, surrounded by the corpses of their kind who had suffered the same fate.
Above video: a short clip from Racing Extinction by Oscar winner, makers of The Cove, which gives a behind the scenes look at the shark fin trade.
As almost half the world’s shark species live in Australian waters I think we have a particular responsibility to look at our role in the international shark fin trade. Even though live shark finning is illegal in Australia, we are still supporting the cruel practice by both importing fins from countries that still allow shark finning and supporting the international unregulated trade in shark fin by exporting with no traceability. Read more about this issue with Marine Conservation
In 2013, 27 countries banned shark finning. The EU and the States have adopted a "fins naturally attached" (regarding sharks caught) without exception policy yet Australia still hasn't managed to have this constant across all states!?
In NSW and Victorian waters, all sharks caught must be brought back to port (‘landed’) with their fins attached to their bodies. In Tasmanian, Western Australian, Northern Territory and Queensland waters however, fishers can cut the fins off at sea, as long as they bring back a ratio of shark fins to shark meat.
Due to the size of the Australian coastline, fisheries management rely heavily on self-reporting to ensure compliance with fishing regulations. With these factors in mind it seems a no brainer for the WHOLE of Australia to also adopt the "fins attached no exception" rule and most importantly
BAN THE SALE OF SHARK FINS!!!
Internationally USA has implemented shark fin bans in Hawaii, California, Illinois, Washington State, Oregon, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Oregon,Washington Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Canada also has numerous cities with shark fin bans in place.
24 airlines have also gone ‘shark free’ including Thai Airways, Cebu Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways, Air Seychelles, Philippines Airlines, Air Asia, Garuda Indonesia, Korean Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Emirates, Eva Air (Taiwan), Qantas, Air New Zealand, Qatar Airways, KLM, Swiss, FinnAir, Lufthansa, Lan Chile / LATAM Airlines Group (Chile), and Aeromexico
Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International and Starwood Hotels have a ban on shark fin products at their hotels.
Even the China State Council, and Malaysian Government have banned shark-fin soup from official government banquets and receptions.
Plus places like Palau put in place the world’s first shark sanctuary, followed by Mexico, Honduras, the Maldives, the Marshall islands, other Pacific countries and around the Chagos islands. This banning of the fishing of sharks in their waters is recognition of the fact that sharks are worth far more alive than they are dead in a bowl of soup.
The world is stepping up and crying out. It's time for Australia to take the next step.
It is hard having politicians running our country who have complete disregard for the welfare of our environment but if we speak loud enough, they do listen because the want our vote. Legislation has just been introduced into the NSW parliament by a Greens MP that would make the sale of shark fin an offence under the Food Act, with a maximum fine of $11,000.
So RIGHT NOW is the time to speak up, write to your MP and spend 5 minutes signing these 3 campaigns asking for the ban of the sales of shark fins- as in other places around the world and share this article with friends. It's not worth complaining about how bad it is... take action...
Next time you vote you can also note that the Australian Greens will make it a high priority to ban the sale of shark fins.
This weekend why not watch this fantastic free doco on sharks. If we base our actions on what we know, I think our sharks, the ocean, our planet are important enough to spend sometime learning what you can.