A reader writes:
You quoted that Southern Fried Science article claiming that finning sharks at sea should be banned but that shark fins shouldn't be banned, as they are here in California, because not all shark fins come from finning at sea. California carefully considered this and concluded that, given the vast poaching going on globally today, as long as there is a market for shark fins there will be extensive poaching going on all over the world. This is simply too lucrative of a market, and finning at sea is vastly more efficient than quickly filling up a boat with whole sharks. California's goal was to try to eliminate the state's market for shark fins, as this was determined to be the only way to target finning.
By the way, you left out the part where the article calls shark finning "shockingly inhumane, as the sharks are often still alive when they are dumped overboard."
Perhaps given that 99% of animal products (eggs, meat, dairy) come from factory farms today, shocking inhumanity is a given with all animal products, but I still think we should mention it as often as possible. Similarly, California gave the foie gras industry years to come up with a non-shockingly inhumane way to produce that stuff, and when they couldn't a ban went into effect statewide this month. As with the shark fin ban, there is a lawsuit to overturn that ban as well. The state seems to have quite a few supporters of shocking inhumanity, unfortunately.
Thank you for the post about the market in shark fins and the resulting "precipitous" (per the Pew Charitable Trust) drop in the global shark population. I infer that you share my alarm regarding the practice of shark finning and its results. I am writing you in the hope that you will mention in your blog the plight of a key defender of the shark population and the health of the oceans generally: Capt. Paul Watson of the organization Sea Shepherd. Capt. Watson is currently being held in Germany pending possible extradition to Costa Rica to face – in my opinion and that of many, many others – meritless charges of violating ship traffic during an operation in which he uncovered illegal shark finning in international waters. Here's a link to Sea Shepherd's web page about this matter. Given your engaged, global readership, a mention from you would cast a strong light on this troubling situation.
And to bait some other readers:
Something that has always troubled me about sharks, from an environmental perspective: if they are top of the food chain, then their absence would only mean more surviving members of lower rungs on the chain. There is no higher species that would be adversely affected. So wouldn't the overfishing or extinction of sharks help alleviate the problem we have with diminishing numbers of fish in the ocean? I would never argue for purposefully putting a species into extinction, but on some level isn't the absence of sharks an environmental solution, not a problem? Or am I missing some other function of sharks, besides keeping Discovery Channel in business?
(Photo: Marshall Islands law enforcement personnel on a longline fishing vessel sort through hundreds of kilograms of confiscated shark fins in the Marshall Islands territory's waters on December 1, 2011. The Marshall Islands has fined a Japanese-operated fishing vessel 125,000 USD for violating a ban on shark fishing, officials said, in the first levy of its kind in the territory's waters. The Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority said the fine was the first imposed since the introduction of a ban on trading shark fins across its vast waters late last year. By Giff Johnson/AFP/Getty Images)