Saturday, February 21, 2009

Stop Shark Finning Now!

A public service announcement against shark finning by Acadamy Award-winning Director, Ang Lee, for WildAid. For more information, visit

Quick Shark Facts

100 million sharks are killed each year (that works out to more than 10,000 per hour)!

Sharks kill fewer than 5 humans on average each year, and only one in 2007, while humans kill 100 million sharks annually. You're more likely to be killed by a lightning strike, bee sting or falling coconut or falling soda machine.

Of the more than 500 species of sharks in the world, only 10 have been known to attack a human being.

There are 6.65 billion people in the world and in the past year one (1) of those people were killed by sharks.

Vast numbers of sharks die incidentally as "bycatch," killed needlessly and thrown overboard unused by fishermen using nets and longlines to catch other types of fish. One report estimates 50 million are caught and killed this way.

As many as 73 million are killed by the shark finning industry.

It is estimated that 90 percent of all large sharks have been wiped out, and 93-99 percent of all large sharks off the east coast of North America are gone (tiger sharks, bull sharks, hammerhead sharks, etc.).

Shark finning is the practice of catching a shark, slicing off its fins and dumping the still-living shark back in the ocean, where it drowns or bleeds to death.

Shark finning is largely illegal—in many areas, fishing fleets are regulated by a fin-to-carcass weight ratio, which means that shark fins can only be a certain percentage of the total weight of their shark haul onboard—but fleets routinely ignore regulations, and enforcement worldwide is sorely lacking.

Shark fins, exported to Asia for shark fin soup, are now among the most expensive seafood products in the world, fetching up to 500 euros ($676) per kilogram. A single Whale Shark pectoral fin can sell for up to US$15,000.

Global trade in shark fins is increasing, and the market for shark fin soup is estimated to be growing by 5 percent per year.

Finning occurs worldwide and is most common in high seas fisheries, hundreds of miles out to sea. Oceanic fishing fleets target valuable fish such as tuna, using thousands of baited hooks on miles of long-line, and freezing their catch onboard. Unfortunately, long-liners often catch several times as many sharks than they do tuna. Until relatively recently, this shark 'bycatch' was considered a nuisance, and sharks were cut loose and allowed to swim away. However, as shark fins have become increasingly valuable, fewer sharks are being released.

No sharks are protected internationally. Only a handful of countries manage shark fisheries. Enforcement is very difficult.

Where figures exist, they suggest that Hong Kong is the world's shark fin trading centre, accounting for an estimated 50% - 80% of all fins traded worldwide. Currently the EU supplies 27% of all fins imported into Hong Kong.

Reported trade in shark fins has more than doubled, from 3,011 metric tons in 1985 to 7,048 metric tons in 1997. In 2006, the largest number of sharks were killed on history – though we already knew they were endangered.

Consumers are largely unaware of the origins of shark fin. Studies in Hong Kong and Taiwan show that consumers have little understanding of where shark fin soup comes from, of overfishing, of illegal shark fishing or of the practice of finning.

Shark fins are tasteless, and contain high levels of toxic methyl-mercury.

Shark fin soup is thought to be an aphrodisiac in some cultures, but it can actually cause infertility.

The legal limit for consumption of methyl-mercury, set by the EPA, is 0.1 microgram per kilogram of body weight. Studies have shown shark meat contains as much as 1,400 micrograms of methyl-mercury in one kilogram. A person weighing 155 lbs would therefore get 50 times the legal amount in one single portion of shark steak.

Sharks' life history makes them vulnerable to exploitation – for example, Basking Sharks take 15-20 years to mature, have a 2-3 year gestation period and produce only 4–6 pups.

Currently, Great White Sharks, Whale Sharks and Basking Sharks are the only sharks to have been listed on CITES Appendices.

Effective conservation and management are hindered by meager insight into the biology, life history, distribution, migration and exploitation of most shark species.

The prospect of a food chain minus its apex predators may mean the end of the line for many more species.

Sharks have widespread global distribution and play a vital role in maintaining the health of ocean ecosystems.

The oceans are the most important ecosystem on the planet, containing life that absorbs most of the carbon dioxide (global warming gas) that we put into the atmosphere, converting it into 70% of the oxygen we breathe. That life is kept healthy by sharks, who, at the top of the food chain, regulate the oceans. Destroying shark populations is destroying our oceans and our life support system.