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National Museum of Animals & Society Blog
Countless global citizens have been made more aware of shark behavior, anatomy and their plummeting populations as Shark Week 2011 wraps up. But what do we do with this information?
Animal advocates across the oceans are calling on people to voice their concerns on one significant issue that has decimated shark numbers: shark fin soup. According to our neighbors, Shark Savers, a few towns over in Simi Valley, Calif.,
Research indicates that each year, the fins of up to 73 million sharks are harvested and sold, mostly for shark fin soup. Together with other forms of shark fishing, including unintentional ‘bycatch’, over 100 million sharks are being killed each year.
Shark fin soup, which can run $80 a serving, is considered a gourmet delicacy in high societies of China and here in North America too among Chinese-American communities. It’s also considered a cultural legacy with health-benefiting properties and is popularly offered at weddings and banquets.
The “harvesting” of shark fins isn’t a pretty process. After having their fins removed, these sharks are typically still alive and unable to swim. They are tossed back into the ocean where they slowly sink toward the bottom and are eaten alive by other fish. Other sea animals are also effected by the methods used for capturing sharks. We’ll let you explore that on your own.
But the question to be asked is: Is it a fundamental cultural right to use animals – despite their endangered status – for consumption? Leeway has been made for native tribes that have depended upon whale meat for centuries, despite the endangered status of certain whales. On the other hand, some traditions that have long existed and were thoroughly weaved into society’s fabric, such as eating dogs and even veal, have been not only challenged, but expunged and are now looked upon universally (with a few exceptions) with distaste. Will that be the case with sharks?
Do we have the right to dictate what another culture is allowed or forbidden to consume? In this global society and marketplace, how much of your response depends on where the animals used for food come from? Are the oceans and its inhabitants up for grabs? Does locavorism need to come into the discussion?
If you’re in California, you may be interested in Bill AB 376, which would ban the possession, sale, and trade of shark fins in the state. Find out how you can get a hold of your senator on this issue and express your concerns.