The highly controversial dish commonly known as “shark fin soup” is typically associated with being consumed in Asia by the wealthy who can afford the hefty price tag of about $100 per bowl. But the cost is incomparably greater for the world’s shark populations and our ocean and world ecosystems as a whole. The corrupt trade, which remains largely unregulated, is responsible for the death of 73 million sharks each and every year and is driving many shark species to the point of extinction. But the market for shark fins is not isolated within Asia; the trade still remains legal in the U.S., and a new report by conservation group Oceana reveals that Miami leads the U.S. in shark fin imports.
Twelve U.S. states currently have a ban on the import of shark fins, but Florida is not one of them. From 2010-2014, shark fin imports were falling in Miami, but since California and New York banned imports in 2011 and 2013, PortMiami saw an increase in shark fin imports from Hong Kong, making Miami the number one importer of shark fins in the U.S. since 2015.
Neil Hammerschlag, a shark expert at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, told The Miami Herald, “If we hold our fisheries to very stringent regulations but we still allow imports from countries that don’t have very stringent or environmentally conscious fishing regulations, then we’re protecting our environment but exploiting other environments … The bottom line is too many species are being removed.”
What is being done about this? There are two proposed laws that would strengthen restrictions on the trade. One bipartisan measure, sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., seeks to ban shark fins altogether. Another bill created by Florida Republicans Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Daniel Webster, would allow U.S. fishermen to harvest fins and only allow imports from countries that have finning rules similar to those in the U.S. However, there is a big problem with this bill, as it is nearly impossible to track fins and identify whether they come from endangered species or are captured legally.
The truth is, the world cannot survive without sharks. Many shark species are apex predators and are key in regulating fish populations and maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems. By disturbing the natural balance of the ocean, the shark fin trade, in turn, is negatively affecting the entire planet.
You can help spread awareness of the shark fin trade by sharing posts like this one on social media and by supporting political candidates who oppose the trade. When demand for shark fins ends, so too will the trade, and only then may sharks have a fighting chance at survival.
Image Source: Pixabay