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End Shark Finning Once And For All!

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Sponsor: The Rainforest Site

Many countries have banned it, but shark finning continues to threaten endangered shark species with extinction.

Shark finning is a cruel and inhumane practice.

One hundred million sharks are slaughtered every year for their fins1. That's roughly the population of Mexico or Japan. Or the United Kingdom and Australia, combined.

Fishermen slice the sharks' fins off and toss the less valuable "meat" (that is, the still-living creature they just mutilated) back into the water, where the shark will subsequently die from blood loss or suffocation2.

Approximately 50 million more sharks die annually as bycatch in unregulated fisheries, often through the use of destructive and indiscriminate fishing methods such as longlines, gillnets, and trawls. The international shark fin trade is largely unregulated, so sharks caught accidentally are routinely killed for their fins3.

Shark finning continues to threaten dozens of species of endangered sharks in the name of shark fin soup — a traditionally aristocratic delicacy that has a newfound niche in China's emerging middle class. In the past 20 years or so, the demand for shark-fin soup has rocketed4. It is still associated with privilege and social rank. A bowl of soup can cost up to $100, but the explosive growth in the Chinese economy means that hundreds of millions of people can now afford this luxury. Many consider it standard at events such as weddings, birthdays, business banquets and during Chinese New Year celebrations.

This outmoded tradition began as a way for the wealthy to show superiority over the apex predators of the ocean, and to impress their guests with barbaric prowess. Incidentally, shark meat has virtually no taste, and may contain dangerous levels of mercury, making it unsafe to eat5.

More than 25% of known shark species are now on the verge of extinction, which has interrupted the balance of countless oceanic ecosystems, and has had huge economic impacts6.

Sharks play an important role in the maintenance of their habitats. When their numbers drop, as they have been, due to exploitation and slow recovery rates, a ripple effect can disrupt the populations of their prey, and their prey's prey, ultimately costing fisheries and the larger community a lot more than the few hundred dollars per shark market price7.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) treaty has been fighting to preserve sharks for decades, yet only offers protections for eight shark species, a mere fraction of those that are threatened with extinction from finning. Sign the petition asking CITES Secretary-General to ramp up efforts, and to expand the protective scope of CITES to include all threatened, vulnerable, endangered, and critically endangered sharks.

More on this issue:

  1. Shark Research Institute, "Shark Finning: Barbarity Causing Extinction for Profit."
  2. Vanessa Mignon, Humane Society International, "Shark Finning."
  3. Animal Welfare Institute (2021), "Shark Finning."
  4. Mark Carwardine, Discover Wildlife (2021), "What is shark finning and why is it a problem?"
  5. Shark Conservation Australia, "Shark Meat is Toxic."
  6. World Wildlife Fund (2021), "Shark Facts."
  7. Census of Marine Life (2009), "Effects of Shark Decline."
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The Petition:

To the Secretary-General of CITES,

First, I would like to thank you for the work you do to protect sharks and other marine species from exploitation and illegal fishing. The CITES shark and manta ray conservation program has no doubt had a significant impact on countless marine ecosystems, and is an essential complement to regionally specific protection measures.

However, despite regulations and conservation efforts, shark finning continues to drive down populations for threatened and endangered sharks. A recent report from the IUCN Shark Specialist Group found that, due to exploitation and slow recovery rates, about one in four known species of sharks is either threatened, vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered — about 100 more species than you currently list for protection.

You have added shark species to the CITES Appendices — an important step to providing safeguards for the sharks that need them the most. However, protectionary measures for just four species were delayed for nearly two-years.

For reproductively sluggish shark species, eighteen months could mean the difference between survival and untimely extinction.

That is why I would like to urge you to take action to immediately extend protections to all threatened, vulnerable, endangered, and critically endangered sharks.

CITES is the global authority on shark species protections, and an aggressive expansion of its conservation measures could have the cogency to resolve the current shark population crisis. With your help, we may be able to save these apex predators, and ultimately the entire oceanic ecosystem, before it's too late.


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