This past month, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla signed a ban on shark finning to amend previous legislation and to close loopholes in the law. The original 2001 law banned shark finning but permitted other countries to continue to import shark fins.
Shark finning is becoming a growing global concern for the complex ecosystem of the world’s oceans. Shark finning is a practice of cutting off the fins of sharks, normally while still alive, then tossing the body back into the ocean ultimately causing the shark to die slowly. This custom is widely criticized for its wastefulness and lack of concern for more sustainable practices.
Fishermen pursue shark fins because of the economic value of shark fin soup, a delicacy in Asian countries. In China, shark fin soup can cost as much as $100 a bowl. In response, the Chinese government is taking small steps to prevent shark finning. For example, China is planning to ban shark fin soup at official banquets. However, more government entities need to implement additional procedures to protect the world’s wildlife. Despite the fact that the European Union bans shark finning, Spain is the top exporter of shark fins to the Asian markets.
Without effective laws or enforcement, humans are depleting the ocean of its natural predators simply for their fins at a rate of roughly 70 million sharks each year. Several species of sharks now face the threat of extinction, prompting many countries to consider an international treaty for the protection of several shark species. The proposal will be voted on in Bangkok at the March 2013 meeting of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.
Rima Jabado, a doctoral student, has been researching the decline of the world’s sharks by inspecting the imports at the Dubai fish market. Data on the decline of the different shark species may motivate governments to take action on the issue. Jabado is researching the shark fin trade in the Dubai market because of its central location in the Persian Gulf; it serves as a hub allowing the shark fin trade to thrive in those surrounding countries. Nations such as Yemen have no laws to protect sharks. In addition, the governments of Kuwait and Somalia have struggled to enforce their current laws. Some of these countries simply lack the financial resources to take action.
Movies and television have caused humans to fear sharks for years, but with this type of animal cruelty, it is clear that sharks should fear the humans. Pushing several species to the edge of extinction for the sake of luxury items is unnecessary and unfortunate. This issue needs scientific research, education, awareness, and stronger laws with better enforcement to create a comprehensive effort to save the sharks and preserve our global environment.
Kristen Pariser is a 2L and Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.