Sharks & The Ocean

Morten Beier

Killing sharks for their fins is a luxury none of us can afford

Sharks have existed on the planet for over 400 million years – before the first dinosaur roamed the earth. Their species have shaped our earth’s ecosystem and the human species as we know it today. Sharks are known as apex predators, which means they maintain the health of our ocean ecosystem by keeping the food chain in check and balance. During the past century however, the industry of shark finning has decimated some populations like the Great White shark by 90%.

Each year, up to 73 million sharks are killed primarily for their fins, threatening one-third of open ocean sharks with extinction. The shark fin trade is like the now-illegal trades in ivory or bear paw, where the demand for a single high-value animal part drives the unsustainable slaughter and waste of the entire animal. Used mainly for a dish called shark fin soup, the shark finning industry is driving shark populations around the globe to extinction and threatening the stability of our ocean ecosystem – something we all depend on.

Sharks are worth more to humans alive than dead

Sharks are a hot commodity for tourists, and divers cite sharks as the main attraction when choosing their travel destination. Studies show that sharks are worth far more alive and swimming. An analysis in Palau quantified the economic benefits of its shark-diving industry and showed that the estimated value to the tourism industry of an individual reef shark was US$179,000 (annual) or US$1.9 million (over its lifetime). In contrast, a single dead reef shark would only bring an estimated US$108.


References:
International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2010  
Australian Institute of Marine Science, 2010