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Monday, October 26, 2020

Shark Awareness Day

Bhairavi Goswami
Bhairavi Goswamihttp://theindigoworld.com
Bhairavi Goswami is editor of ‘THE INDIGO WORLD’

                     Humans depend on other species and ecosystems for survival. Shark extinction is one of the biggest ecological concerns of the planet. They sit on top of 70% of oxygen in the air we breathe from phytoplankton in oceans. 

                     Removing sharks from our ecosystem is removing a part of the framework that allows life to exist on land. Extinction of an Apex predator in the ocean will cause dangerous imbalances in marine communities worldwide. It will affect not just oceanic ecosystems, but our ecosystem and our very existence. Without sharks, the health and productivity of our oceans are at risk.

                     Humans are killing sharks much faster than sharks can repopulate. Sharks take 33 years to reach sexual maturity and have very few babies in their entire lifetime, this makes them extremely vulnerable to extinction. There are hundreds of shark species, over 50% of them are critically endangered or endangered. 

                          The origin of shark fin soup is traced to Emperor Taizu of Northern Song (960-976). He started the tradition of serving shark fin soup to showcase his power, wealth and generosity. The dish’s popularity increased during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) when admiral of the Imperial Navy – Zheng He, commanded expeditionary voyages around Asia and East Africa (1405-1433), bringing back fins that fishermen had discarded. Shark fin soup became an established dish and was in high demand by the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).

                      Shark fin soup declined in popularity when Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949. But with China’s economic boom in the past 20 years, the middle class are eager to flaunt their new-found wealth and Shark fin soup is once again a status symbol. The price per bowl ranges from as little as HK$5 (45p) to an incredible HK$2000 (£180) depending on the type, style and preparation of the shark fin served.

                    It is critical to reduce demand, by changing attitudes. Shark-fin soup consumption is slowly declining. Several airlines and hotel chains have stopped serving it. People need to be educated about the gruesome cutting of a live shark’s fins and throwing it back into the sea. 

                    Many species of sharks need to be constantly swimming in order to breathe. This is called “ram ventilation.” Without their fins, swimming is not possible and they die a slow painful death, as they slowly sink to the bottom of the ocean and either bleed to death, are eaten alive or drown. Appallingly, sharks are conscious through this entire ordeal.

                Most of the pollution generated by humans has gone into the environment untreated, that accumulates in living animal matter and gets more and more concentrated as you go up the food chain. By the time you get to sharks at the top, they are extremely toxic with lead, mercury and other neurotoxins. It’s important that you keep sharks out of your food chain. They are enormously toxic. You should not eat a shark of any size. Women and children should not eat them at all.

                    Shark fins are a billion dollar industry. Millionaires make multi million dollar deals. They own helicopters, houses and restaurants made by plundering the ocean. Mafia warehouses are packed with tons of shark’s fins. Shark finning is incredibly wasteful because fins are less than 10% of the weight of a shark. 

                  1 pound of little shark fins cost 50 cents, medium sized fins are $5. In China these fins would cost $200. In Panama City raids, Officials seized 800 pounds of shark fins being checked into a flight to Singapore. The estimated value of this shipment was $3,00,000. Many of these fins came from sharks that are on the endangered species list including Scalloped hammerhead shark. 40,000 fins were from new born baby sharks to huge hammerheads. When you kill a baby shark you are destroying an entire shark population. 

                      90 countries around the world have banned shark finning but not one of them has banned import of fins. This means you can fin as many sharks as you want if you put them on an export shipping boat, not a fishing boat. This is a massive loophole.

              Costa Rica is supposedly one of the most progressive countries with lots of conservation. Boats go out during the weekend when fisheries department and Environment Ministry are not working and come in quietly at night when nobody is watching. Japanese ships containing tons of blue shark fins have been seized several times.

               Oceanic whitetip shark is found only in the month of May, it was once the most abundant large predator on the planet. Their massive fins are highly valued in the fin industry. Oceanic whitetip shark population in the Atlantic and Caribbean have dropped 99%. 

                        Sawfish is the most critically endangered shark species in the world. They face severe loss of habitat. Saws are hunted for soup, traditional medicines, their teeth and saw are also popular. If you put a trophy price on any animal, it will become extinct. 

                   
   Humans kill 150 million sharks a year. Approximately 50 million sharks die as bycatch in unregulated fisheries, that use hugely destructive methods of fishing such as longlines, drift gill nets and trawls. These nets catch everything that comes into it – dolphins, whales, turtles, all marine life and tons of sharks. It is gut wrenching to watch an endangered majestic super predator stuck in a primitive fishing net, horribly mangled, thrashing for its life. When they catch a large shark, they hammer its head until it dies. 

                  Most fisheries waste upto 85% of what they bring to the surface as bycatch. That includes fish that is brought out of the ocean but inedible or not the target fish that fishery wanted, so are killed and thrown back into the ocean. They only want expensive fish, so they throw back all other amazing marine life. They waste 54 billion pounds of dead fish every year. 

                Elephants kill about 200 people a year, but when an elephant is killed for its ivory there is an uproar. Shark related incidents kill 5 people a year and we kill 150 million sharks a year. Sharks are not predators of people. When surfers say ‘unprovoked attack’, you must remember the ocean is their home, not your playground. Would you go for a run in the jungle and expect wildlife to not attack you? 

                 Our entire lives we have been afraid of sharks. The media has brainwashed us that sharks are killers, they will attack you. Most shark attacks were either provoked or accidental. Sharks are  graceful, sleek, mysterious mammoths with curious, expressive eyes. Shark cage diving as an extreme sport is a form of cruelty. You are invading their home and threatening their very existence. Would you sit in a cage in the jungle, surrounded by lions and think it’s adventure sports? 

                   The biggest environmental issue on the planet right now is lack of awareness and education of what impacts humans as a race. We don’t understand how our individual actions and consumption, our Governments and corporations are destroying our life support system. We have to hold our friends, family and Governments accountable.

                         Conservation of Planet Earth is preservation of human life on earth. People don’t understand how the ecosystem of a planet works, because it isn’t taught in school. Education teaches you Shakespeare and geometry but not conservation. 

                       Sharks have been around for over 400 million years. They survived 5 major extinctions on earth, that wiped out most of the planet. They have watched life on Earth rebuild from scratch 5 times. Extinction of sharks will have a massive ecological impact on the planet.

                       Shark population has dropped 90% in the past 30 years. Humans have decimated 450 million years of sharks on Earth in the past 30 years. You are the biggest destructor of your own life support system. If you remove one species from the planet, the consequences have ripple effects that throw the entire ecosystem out of balance.

                   Humans are wiping out the longest lasting predator on the planet for soup. Cooked Shark fins have the texture of fine noodles and are completely tasteless. The glutinous broth has to be flavoured with chicken stock. Shark finning is a consumer awareness issue. If people stop eating it, fisheries will stop fishing them. 

                  Depletion of natural resources of Planet Earth is a man made crisis. You are morally bound and have a life purpose to save the ecosystem on which you depend for your survival. Your survival is in jeopardy. You depend on the oceans to survive, you depend on life of the planet for food, air and water.

                     The smallest scale events have giant consequences. Even one person can make a difference. Stop eating shark fin soup. Some fisheries don’t cut off fins and throw sharks back into the ocean. They mince shark meat and add it to other seafood. Or they are renamed as rock eel, rock salmon, Huss, dogfish, Sweet William, fish flakes and sold to you. Half of all fish and chips in England is now made with shark. 

                           Read the label of everything you buy. Pet food with ocean fish contains shark. Minced tuna has shark meat. 33% of Beauty care products tested had shark squalene in them. Shark Meat is also in livestock feed, fertilisers and cosmetics. We are part of the extinction of Apex predators without knowing it. If you want a healthy environment you have to insist on a shark free world. 

                       I believe that if you are aware of the impact your actions have on the planet, you will make different decisions, be conscious of what you eat, be mindful of how you dispose your garbage and how you live your life. 

                     There is nothing more important than conserving the Apex Predator of your oceans. This environmental issue needs your involvement more than any other. You have an opportunity to become a hero, go on, grab that opportunity and be a hero!

While you were reading this 10,000 sharks were killed. 

An estimated 12,000 sharks are killed every hour. 

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