Shark populations have dropped by up to 90%. We are killing 100 million sharks a year, mostly to fuel the demand for shark fin soup, which can fetch hundreds of dollars a bowl. A single whale shark fin can fetch $50,000!
Sharks are commonly caught on long lines - lines that can stretch for a hundred miles and contain tens of thousands of baited hooks. With shark fin fetching hundreds of dollars a pound, fishermen started the brutal practice of finning - removing the shark fins, and discarding the body, wasting 95% of the animal.
Unfortunately, sharks have not evolved to be prey, and their populations cannot sustain this kind of pressure. Unlike other fish, which can have thousands of young, sharks breed like people or elephants, and can take 125-25 years to reach sexual maturity and have very few young.
The tricky part with fisheries regulations and laws addressing this issue is that when the practice of finning becomes outlawed, it is often difficult to enforce. There are too many ways to get around it. When laws require to bring bring the animal whole, with fins attached, it simply encouraged fishermen to find ways to market the whole shark. In recent years the market of shark meat has increased as commercial fishing operations are looking to sell more of the sharks they catch and also have a harder time catching fish in general. The big incentive still comes through the high price of fins. Without that, catching a shark is not that profitable. This is the main reason why fin trade bans can be effective. If they can’t sell the fin it is less likely they will target sharks. The ultimate solution is to stop the fishing of sharks all together, but if that is not possible, due to the the strength and influence of the commercial fishing lobby, a fin trade ban is one of the most effective measures out there.
With few functional international regulations to protect sharks, and large areas of the oceans unprotected, saving sharks will come down to reducing the demand for shark fins and meat- and that’s where Fin Free comes in!