Hope for Shark Finning Bans Continues
Last month in Cambridge, volunteers from the community group Fin Free Cambridge delivered a petition with over three and a half thousand signatures to the Guildhall. The group, and all the signatories, are hoping to make Cambridge the first UK city to ban the use of shark fins. Currently four businesses in Cambridge use shark fins and the UK is ranked 19th in the world for shark fin exports.
Shark finning is a cruel and wasteful activity, with around 73 million sharks being killed each year for their fins alone. The number of threatened shark species in the world has grown to more than 180 from a total of just 15 in 1996. Dr Ralf Sonntag, Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Germany, says: "Shark finning is not only a huge conservation issue it is also against all international standards of animal welfare because many sharks are alive when they are thrown overboard with their fins cut off."
Sharks cannot withstand the high level of fishing that they are experiencing, due to their slow growth rates and the length of time it takes for them to reach sexual maturity (12-14 years for a female Great White Shark, for example). When they are mature, they have relatively few offspring, so population recovery is slow. "There is no hidden reserve of sharks and they are disappearing fast. Most sharks have an exceptionally limited biological productivity and can therefore be overfished even at very low levels of fishing mortality," says Dr Sonntag.
The petition in Cambridge follows international activity over the past two years that has seen every single country in the Americas officially ban shark finning. In June, Venezuela was the last country to do so, at the same time as establishing a shark sanctuary covering 1,440 square miles (3,730 sq km) in the Caribbean Sea, and protecting Los Roques, an area 80 miles off the coast that provides crucial breeding and nursery grounds for Lemon Sharks and Caribbean Reef Sharks among many others.
Venezuela joins only a handful of other countries to have established a shark sanctuary; others include The Bahamas, Tokelau, The Marshall Islands, The Maldives, Palau and Honduras. These countries have all realised that a living shark is worth much more to their economy than a dead one.
Continue reading at The Ecologist.
Shark fin image via Shutterstock.