Updated: Feb 14, 2022
Why are we risking the health of everything living on this planet for a bowl of soup? Each year, 80-100 million sharks are killed just for their fins. These fins are used as the ingredient in shark-fin soup. But as the number of large sharks’ declines, the oceans will suffer unpredictable and devastating consequences.
To understand sharks‘ indispensable role in the oceans, it’s important to understand the marine food chain first. Sharks are apex predators in the marine ecosystem. What does that mean?
The life cycle of the oceans starts with the plants (e.g. algae, seagrasses). On these plants are feeding the „primary consumers“ of the marine food chain – the zooplankton. The next link are the "secondary consumers", which are carnivores and they feed on the zooplankton and animal remains. The food chain then continues with the tertiary, and quaternary consumers etc. In this food web each fish has a role to play that benefits the marine ecosystem and the sharks are the top predators in it. Therefore removing the sharks may cause the entire system to collapse.
Sharks‘ role is to keep the species below them in the food chain in balance. They remove the sick and weak individuals and help to control the spread of diseases among the populations. Another example of the importance of sharks are the tiger sharks, who prevent their prey (such as sea turtles and dugongs) to spend a long time feeding on one area of seagrass beds, overgrazing it and destroying habitats for many other species.
The health of our oceans undoubtedly depends on sharks. Despite these facts, shark finning is still killing 11 000 sharks each hour. Shark finning is a brutal practice of cutting off a shark’s fins and throwing the rest of the animal back into the ocean while they’re still alive. In order to “breathe,” sharks need to swim so water will flow through their gills. But without fins, sharks sink to the seabed where they bleed to death or suffocate.
These fins are then traded for a high profit and end up as an desirable ingredient in the shark fin soup, especially in Asia. Historically, the shark fin soup was served to the imperial family and court members as a symbol of wealth, status and luxury. But as the income levels of Chinese communities around the world gradually increased, the demand for the shark fin soup started rising rapidly.
On top of that all, shark fin itself does not add any flavor to the soup, it adds only the texture while the taste comes from other soup ingredients. Many studies also shown that shark meat is contaminated with methylmercury, which can be dangerous to humans even in small doses.
We do not believe that any kind of hatred or name calling will help this situation. We need to focus on solutions and stop the demand by education and rising the awereness about this problem. And it is problem – for healh, ecological and existentional reasons.
If you want to help with this issue, you can become a Blue Religion shark market volunteer – please click here.