Since the world first got a whiff of the practice of shark finning, awareness and controversy have spread like wildfire, with those on both sides of the issue passionately defending their view. While those who stand in favor of the practice plead necessity is a driving factor, those who are against it point to scientific evidence that shows the practice is harmful to the very fishermen who engage in it.
Regardless of how you feel about the ethics of shark finning, the facts are in: shark finning is causing a rapid decline in shark populations, as there is virtually no management of the fishery, meaning any and all sharks are fair game. The inherent flaw in this approach is that shark species are slow to reproduce, many of which do not reach sexual maturity until they are at least 10 years old. If sexually immature sharks are being culled at the same rate as adults, who will be left to produce more? The answer to this question couldn’t be more clear: no one. And without the oceans’ number one predator to keep the sea’s precious balance in check, predictions for marine collapse will not be far from becoming a reality.
Consequently, increased awareness of this reality and efforts to prevent it should be everyone’s responsibility. Our feelings on the matter can be fully expressed with the choices we make. If shark finning is something you do not want to support, you can refuse to patronize restaurants and other establishments that offer shark fin products. You can send an email to your city, state, or federal officials asking them to create legislation that will ban this practice in your area. And one of the very easiest ways you can support the conservation and protection of sharks is to educate yourself and others on the facts and what can be done to contribute to its success.
PangeaSeed, a grassroots shark conservation group in Tokyo, started after the IUCN’s 2009 report that one-third of all open water sharks are in danger of extinction, and that many of their populations have been so over-exploited there may be no chance of recovery. Knowing that awareness of a problem is the key to its solution, PangeaSeed has brought awareness of sharks’ plight to the public’s attention through a variety of media, including art, music, film, research, and volunteer activism, in an effort to appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds.
They are ramping up their summer campaign to include a touring art festival, dubbed The Great West Coast Migration Tour, in which shark and ocean-related art will be on display, and workshops will be held at various schools, universities, and with conservation organizations. The tour will also be working in conjunction with the Beneath the Waves Film Festival, wherein select tour stops will have the opportunity to view documentaries that explore marine issues and encourage discussion with the public.
The Great West Coast Migration Tour will begin July 13 in Seattle, and will travel down the west coast, stopping in Portland, OR, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Costa Mesa, and San Diego, CA. If shark conservation is important to you, don’t miss PangeaSeed’s exhibit when it lands in one of these great west coast cities!
Images courtesy of PangeaSeed