As predators at or near the top of marine food webs, sharks have helped maintain the balance of marine life in our oceans for the past 400 million years. Research shows that the massive depletion of sharks has cascading effects throughout our oceans. Fins from up to 73 million sharks are used every year for shark fin soup, resulting in the collapse of many shark populations worldwide. An estimated 1/3 of open-ocean shark species are currently threatened with extinction, with certain populations experiencing a 99% population decline.
The process of shark finning is as cruel as it is wasteful. Captured at sea and hauled on deck, sharks are often still alive when their fins are hacked off. Because shark meat is not considered as valuable as shark fin, the maimed animals are tossed overboard to drown or bleed to death, with 98% of the shark going to waste.
Shark fin soup has long been a popular entree due to its association with prestige and privilege in Asian cultures, regularly served at banquets, weddings, and corporate events. As a result of China’s expanding economy and rising affluence, an increasing number of people can now afford the soup, priced at up to $100 USD per bowl and demand has been raised dramatically. Though shark fin soup represents status in Asian culture, the fin itself adds no flavour, nutritional, nor medicinal value. Studies have shown that the consumption of shark fin poses a serious threat to human health, as they contain an extremely high concentration of mercury and other toxins. Some of the dangers of mercury include foetal damage, infertility, increased risk of heart disease, and neurological damage.
This ruthless practice remains legal in many parts of the world.