Marine biologists study and protect the oceans and the animals that live in them. Marine biologists are not only concerned about the ocean but also with land-based issues. They fight to pass regional laws that ban fishing and protect endangered species using methods such as captive breeding. Sharks, also known as elasmobranchii, are a species that’s getting close to being endangered. Scientists are not concerned about sharks because there are over 506 species. Sharks are brutally slaughtered in large numbers, and their fins are removed for traditional medicine or shark fin soup. Some people believe that this practice is acceptable because it is so important in many Asian countries. Shark finning, despite its cultural significance, is harmful to the ocean ecosystem, sharks, and those who use them. Shark deaths are considered trivial by some individuals and fishermen. Why should we be saddened by the death of a terrifying, bloodthirsty apex-predator? Sharks are not evil. They simply lack the intelligence or capacity to have morality.

Media such as books, movies, and TV shows have made people believe that sharks are vengeful and will hunt humans down at any opportunity. Many people instantly think of the 1975 movie “Jaws”, when discussing sharks. In the film, a shark is shown preying on people in a small town. The sharks of “Finding Nemo” are also shown to be driven to bloodlust by a small amount red liquid. Even documentaries which are based on fact can influence how we view the species. The reason could be something as simple or as complex as the lighting and music. A scene accompanied by ominous background music is perceived as scary and fear-inducing. This technique is used in horror films. When viewers hear sinister music in the background, they will begin to subconsciously link sharks and fear. Many shark hunters aren’t motivated by fear. According to a research article published by “Frontiers In Marine Science”, the shark fin industry has been so lucrative, it’s transformed remote coastal communities of Eastern Indonesia, which were primarily subsistence fishing villages, into cash-based economies. The shark fishing industry is now less dependent on subsistence fisheries. There are few other marine-based businesses that can offer the same financial reward. This practice can be attractive to fishermen with low incomes who are trying to get by. The money they earn can help them escape poverty, allow their children go to school, or provide medical care. Shark finning is an evil that must be done. To improve their lives, they need to find alternatives that are both financially viable and sustainable. The Chinese use shark fins for various unproven treatments. In the past, shark fins were used to make expensive soups that were considered status symbols. Shark fins tend to have a bland flavor, so soups with them are heavily seasoned or mixed with chicken stock. Cooking time is required to soften the gummy, hard fins. Fins are also advertised as a cancer cure, skin care, joint pain relief, and aphrodisiac. In 2012, marine biologists and neuroscientists discovered that shark fins contained high levels of the neurotoxin BMAA. The toxin and the mercury in shark meat can increase your risk of developing brain degenerative diseases.

Shark fins are not good for you, but they hurt the sharks more. The sharks are captured, brought aboard, and their dorsal as well as pectoral fins are slashed. As the sharks are still alive, they are thrown into the water as soon the definning is complete. Fins are much more lucrative and easier to obtain than the shark’s entire body. The majority of shark species are able to breathe by ram-ventilation. This means they have to be in constant motion so that water can flow through and over their gills. The shark is unable move without its fins and cannot get oxygen or breathe. In an attempt to survive, they wiggle and struggle, but eventually sink. The shark is not the only one affected by their death. As apex prey, their presence is vital to the ecosystem’s balance. Without sharks, prey populations would explode and natural resources would be depleted. In the opposite direction, predators like sharks will also overpopulate. Sharks are the only predators that can compete with them.

The ocean will no longer be able sustain its creatures and the ecosystem will be completely thrown out of balance. Scientists have begun implementing technology in order to protect and conserve the sharks. Simon Thorrold uses PSAT tag to track some sharks. PSAT tags, a small device attached to the dorsal side of a shark’s fin, are painless. The tags allow us to see how animals live in their ocean habitats, including where they travel, when and why. The tag can stay in a shark’s body for up to a full year before it detaches itself and floats on the surface. The tag then transmits its signals to satellites nearby, where scientists can review and retrieve the data. Scientists can use tags such as these to determine which areas are off-limits for fishermen searching for sharks. We don’t want to eat shark fins or use unscientific remedies based solely on folklore and speculation.

Shark finning, while a brutal and inhumane practice, may benefit struggling fisherman for a time, but it will eventually cause more issues than we can fix or avoid. Marine biologists can make greater strides in conserving sharks with the help of advanced technology and increased awareness. They won’t have to battle against people who are culturally biased or have a tradition-bound mindset. These animals are still being exploited ruthlessly. Our oceans need sharks for survival, even if humans don’t.


  • noahtaylor

    Noah Taylor is a bloger, teacher, and writer living in upstate New York. He is the author of the highly successful educational blog, Noah's World, and the creator of the popular teacher resource, Noah's Notes. He has also written for many online publications, including Parenting, The Huffington Post, and The Learning Place. Noah is a graduate of Williams College and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.