Humans kill 100 million sharks a year
…and for what?

  • shark fins for a tasteless bowl of soup
  • shark teeth for jewellery
  • shark jaws for tourist souvenirs
  • shark skin for leather wallets/belts
  • shark cartilage capsules and powders for phoney medicinal cures
  • shark liver oil for cosmetics/skin care products

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Get a new perspective on sharks.

Myth:  Sharks are bloodthirsty man-eaters and ruthless killing machines.

Reality:  More people are killed each year by falling vending machines than by sharks.

Sharks are in Danger

100 million sharks are killed each year-by longlines, by “sport” fishermen, or by a barbaric practice known as shark finning. Hooked sharks are hauled onto boats; their fins are sliced off while they are still alive. These helpless animals are then tossed back into the ocean where, unable to swim without their fins, they sink towards the bottom and die an agonising death.

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With 90% of the world’s large shark populations already wiped out, sharks are being depleted faster than they can reproduce. This threatens the stability of marine ecosystems around the world. Sharks are vitally important apex predators. They have shaped marine life in the oceans for over 400 million years and are essential to the health of the planet, and ultimately to the survival of mankind. Sea Shepherd patrols marine protected areas, exposing the corruption that drives this multi-billion dollar industry and directly intervening to stop the brutal slaughter of sharks.

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What is a Longline?

A longline is a fishing line usually made of monofilament. The length of the line generally ranges from 1.6km (1 mile) to as long as 100km (62 miles). The line is buoyed by Styrofoam or plastic floats. Every hundred or so feet, there is a secondary line attached extending down about 5m (16 feet). This secondary line is hooked and baited with squid, fish, or in cases we have discovered, with fresh dolphin meat.

The baited hooks can be seen by albatross from the air and when they dive on the hooks, they are caught and they drown. Other forms of marine wildlife see the bait from the waters below and get hooked when they try to eat the bait.

The lines are set adrift from vessels for a period of 12 to 24 hours.

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What Are These Longlines Doing to the Sharks?

Longlines are the most significant factor in the rapid loss in numbers of shark populations in the oceans. Longlines ranging from one mile in length to over one hundred miles in length are baited with fish, (often illegally killed dolphins or seals), and are meant to target shark, swordfish, and tuna. The sharks targeted are caught mostly for their fins (which account for only 4% of their body weight) and also for their cartilage, liver oil, and teeth. The longline fishermen remove the fins and toss the still living shark back into the sea to die an agonizing death. Unable to swim, they slowly sink towards the bottom where other fish eat them alive. If longlines are not abolished, the oceans will lose most species of sharks within the next decade.

Intervention in International Waters

The use of longlines in international waters is not illegal in itself. However, if the lines take an endangered or threatened species, they become illegal because the taking of an endangered species is a violation of the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).

International maritime law dictates that a longline that does not bear an identifying flag is in effect legally salvageable, i.e., free for the taking because it is not attached to the ship or boat that deploys it.

The Brutal Business of Shark Finning

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Human beings are skilled at justification. Every year humans slaughter over 100 million sharks yet we depict them as vicious and blood-thirsty killers.

No more than 12 people a year are killed by sharks worldwide. In fact is more dangerous to play golf than to swim in the ocean with sharks. More golfers are struck by lightning and killed each year than the total number of shark fatalities. Many more humans are struck and killed by boats every year than are attacked by sharks.

Yes, we also kill them for their teeth and jaws, and we kill them for shark leather for shoes and belts. We slaughter them for shark liver oil and for shark cartilage for pseudo cancer cures. Sharks are used in cosmetics, skin care products and in medicines.

shark_finning_dead_sharks1We kill sharks because of our fear of them, for food, for sport, and most disturbing of all – so that some of us can make a tasteless, expensive soup to impress our family and friends.

It is the mass slaughter of sharks on longlines and in nets for the sole purpose of taking their fins that is responsible for the incredible dwindling numbers of shark populations around the world.

The fins are highly prized. The fishermen catch the sharks and slice off the fins, unmindful whether the shark is alive or not. The bodies, most of them still alive, are tossed back into the sea to bleed to death or to be attacked by other sharks or fish.

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Sharks are Endangered

Over 8,000 tons of shark fins are processed each year. The fins only amount to 4% of a shark’s bodyweight. This means that some 200,000 tons of shark are thrown back into the sea and discarded.

Already 18 species of sharks have been listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Shark Fin Soup – for what?

The fins are dried, stacked, and sold, mostly illegally. The buyers extract the collagen fibres, clean them, and process them into “shark fin soup.”

This soup has no flavour and absolutely no nutritional value. It is a dish served only for prestige purposes, selling for anywhere from US$50.00 to US$400.00 per bowl.

The demand for shark fin soup has developed since 1985 and coincides with the rapid growth of the Chinese economy. The demand from China is for staggering amounts of shark fins. As a result, the oceans are literally being scoured clean of sharks. Poachers are invading national marine parks like the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and Cocos Island in Costa Rica to catch sharks.

Forget the fictional fear spawned by Steven Spielberg’s ridiculous film Jaws. The oceans are no longer safe for sharks. And the horror is that we don’t just kill them, we hack off their limbs and toss their mutilated bodies back into the sea to die an agonising and horrific death.

Educating the public about the devastating effect that the Asian culture’s use of shark fin soup is having on shark populations through the production of a series of striking postcards is being marketed widely with the objective of stopping this useless, wasteful, and cruel so-called “tradition.”

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Why Should We Care About Sharks?

We should care because sharks are valued citizens of oceanic eco-systems. They are both predators and scavengers, and these roles they play contribute to eliminating diseased and genetically-defective animals and help to stabilise fish populations.

We do not know enough about marine ecology to understand what the impact of this incredible onslaught of shark deaths will bring about. There will be consequences.
Life in our oceans has been seriously disrupted. With shark populations reduced from 70% in some species to up to 95% in other species, the consequences are extremely serious.

For example, removing sharks will increase octopus populations resulting in greater predation on lobsters by octopus. This was the very reason that the spiny lobster fishery collapsed in Tasmania.

One of the things we forget is that sharks differ from other fish. They do not lay thousands or millions of eggs. Many sharks take up to fifteen years to reach maturity and then produce only one shark pup per year. Such a fragile and slow reproduction rate means that their populations may never recover from the damage we have already inflicted.

Sharks Need Our Protection

No sharks should be killed – they should be given complete global protection under law.

Protecting sharks is a more difficult job than protecting dolphins or seals. From the point of view of public relations, seals are cute and dolphins have that lovely natural smile. The shark, in contrast, shows its teeth and, hence, they look menacing.

However, dolphin lovers should know that fishermen kill and cut up dolphins for shark bait for their longline hooks.

As conservationists, we must recognize the value of the interdependence of all species in the oceans and that the shark is an important part of the diversity of marine ecological eco-systems.

We must oppose the cultural practice of consuming shark fin soup, and we must discourage the consumption of sharks for cosmetics and for trinkets. Most importantly, we must educate the general public that sharks are not the vicious, “cold-blooded” creatures many people believe they are.

We need not peer into the dark depths of the sea to see the monstrous creatures that maim and kill by the millions – we need only look into a mirror.

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