Why sharks are so important to our ecosystem
Shark fin soup has been a popular part of the Chinese cuisine since the late 1300s. It is usually served at weddings and banquets, but it is always a frequent item on the menu of Chinese restaurants all around the world. What’s a bowl of this soup cost? I previously read information that a bowl could cost up to $350, so I wanted to find out for myself. I called about 30 restaurants in San Francisco asking prices and the average was about $25.00 a bowl. Twenty five dollars for a shark’s life!
Because of the growing Chinese economy, the demand for shark fin soup has increased. It is estimated that between 100-150 million sharks are killed every year just for their fins. Some species of sharks have reduced over 90% in population for a bowl of soup that has no scientifically proven nutritional value.
Sharks have been part of our ocean’s ecosystems for 420 million years. The practice of shark finning is depleting the ocean’s shark population by 100-150 million sharks every year. Several species of sharks have decreased in size by 90% due to finning alone. I have an understanding of traditions, yet many cultural traditions have been broken and changed throughout history. The practice of shark finning used to support a tradition is no exception to change, especially when species are being driven to extinction.
Sharks are a very important factor in balancing our ocean’s ecosystems. Sharks act as scavengers, preying upon dead or sick animals and they act as apex predators by controlling populations of species. They maintain species diversity by preying upon the most available species. They act as crowd control to help maintain the balance of the ecosystem. Sharks also act as a food sources for other sharks and killer whales. Without sharks, the balance of the ocean will topple, creating a devastating effect.
Half of the oxygen we need for survival is produced via phytoplankton photosynthesis. Photoplankton is responsible for taking in carbon dioxide molecules and turning them into oxygen. Millions of these tiny marine plants drift near the ocean’s surface. Tiny animals called zooplankton eat the photoplankton, as well as clams and other small fish. Jellyfish, some whales and other fish in turn eat the zooplankton. Larger fish eat the animals that feed off of the zooplankton and so forth and so on. Any link in this food chain that is missing will create an imbalance.
Sharks control the population of species that feed off photoplankton. With a decline in the shark population, there is going to be a steady decline of photoplankton, therefore affecting the oxygen levels of the oceans. Oxygen on Earth is very dependent on the oxygen of the ocean. If we neglect this fact, we are bringing death to the Earth.
We need sharks in order for our own long-term survival here on Earth. Traditions may be considered an ancient part of a particular culture and hard to change, yet there needs to come a time when the pros and cons of that tradition are considered. Within the last 20 years, many species of sharks have fallen to only 1-10% of their original population. Sharks have relatively few offspring a year and are slow to mature. It may take 15-20 years for a shark to reach sexual maturity. They cannot reproduce fast enough to make up for the increasing number of deaths every year. Sharks existed before there were dinosaurs and they pre-date humans by millions of years. Yet, in a relatively short period of time, humans and their technological arsenal have driven most shark populations to the verge of extinction.
Earlier this year, Hawaii legislature outlawed the possession of shark fins. In October, the Indian Ocean island of Malviles, banned shark finning in it’s territorial waters. Earlier this month, Indonesia deligated a massive area, known as the Four Kings Shark Sanctuary, to provide full protection to sharks. And just last week the US Senate passed the Shark Conservation Act, which bolsters the prohibition of shark-finning in US waters and puts the US at the forefront of shark conservation. These are mighty steps that are being taken, yet sharks need much more protection.
1. Don’t eat shark fin soup. Tell as many people as you can about the wrongful act of shark finning.
2. Avoid restaurants that sell shark fin soup. If you live near a restaurant that sells shark fin soup, politely ask the owner to consider removing shark fin soup from their menu. You can download these information cards from the Humane Society International to hand out to the owner/manager.
4. Join Shark-Free Marinas in their mission to reduce worldwide shark mortality.
5. Write to your local legislature and ask them to consider banning shark fin soup in your city.
A journalist in my local area of San Francisco is currently raising funds for a story on a proposed ban of shark fins in California. You can ‘sponsor’ her story (no cost to you) by taking some surveys on the spot.us website – or drop in a few bucks of your own. Follow this link, then click the FUND STORY button to find the surveys that drop $5 in the bucket.
We CAN make a difference. You CAN make a difference.
While shark fins and other shark products are valuable, the role sharks play in the marine ecosystem is priceless. If we remove sharks from our ecosystem, the results will be disatrous.