Saturday, May 10, 2008

Shark Finning and Ocean Ecosystems

Shark finning could have a disasterours effect on ocean ecosystems. Recent research indicates that the removal of sharks from their ecosystems could have devastat­ing and unpredictable consequences for ocean ecosystems and for fisheries. In one case, a 100­year old scallop fishery in the Northwest Atlantic recently had to close down, because the removal of large shark species allowed smaller sharks and rays to proliferate, and to consume the scallops. Reported global trade in shark fins increased from 3,011 metric tons in 1980 to 11,732 metric tons in 2000. Much of the trade is unreported because many fins do not pass through normal landing channels and because most of the fin trade is con­ducted in cash to avoid tax and duties. Shark fin soup can cost up to $150 per serving in Hong Kong, but there are worrying signs of a new market opening up for lower-quality fins, allowing millions more people to buy products such as shark fin sushi, shark fin cookies, shark fin cat food and canned shark fin soup.

Shark fin consists of colla­gen fiber and has no taste. Flavor is added to the soup by the addition of chicken or fish stock. Unlike other fish, sharks take many years to mature, they have long gestation periods and they give birth to live young - or they lay eggs - in very small numbers. In some cases of severe overfish­ing, recovery of the stock, if possible at all, will take decades. The "boom and bust" pattern of shark fisheries has been repeated all over the world wherever sharks have been targeted.