There’s nothing defensible about shark finning. It’s the marine equivalent of the poachers who kill rhinos to hack off their horns or kill elephants to hack off their tusks. It’s not dissimilar to killing bears or tigers for spurious ‘traditional’ cures either. But it happens out at sea, to animals which don’t have big brown eyes, and which aren’t usually touted as cuddly toys or ‘adoptable’. They rarely win public polls on favourite animals, yet they fill column inches every silly scaremongering summer season in the tabloids.
Sure, some shark-human encounters don’t go well for the humans, but that’s equally true of lions and tigers and bears. Mutual respect goes a long way when it comes to dealing with large predators.
The vast majority of human-shark encounters though see the shark losing out; or rather see three sharks losing out every single second of every day. Leaving aside fisheries for sharks as ‘meat’, the practice of shark-finning sees sharks deliberately targeted for just their fins and tails. And some of the most iconic and endangered shark species can be on that hit-list, like hammerheads, whale sharks and blacktip reef sharks.
Usually the rest of the shark is simply thrown away. If it wasn’t already dead, it soon will be, because fins are pretty fundamental for a fully-functioning shark.
Shark fin however, like rhino horn, tiger penis, bear bile, or elephant tusk, is in no way fundamental for humans to function.
This is a needless, pointless, defenceless trade. It’s immoral and unacceptable to target sharks for their fins just to make a celebratory soup and we should be as outraged as we generally are on behalf of the cuddly mammals killed needlessly for spare parts, or to make humans feel big and tough.
Increasingly the practice of finning is being shunned internationally, it’s already banned in many countries, including the EU, and even some US states. But for reasons best known to themselves, New Zealand still allows shark finning in its waters. It’s not the only country to do so, but as one which exudes an international image of being 100% pure and natural, defending something 100% indefensible seems a bit odd.
New Zealand's 100% pure advertising campaign is all the more poignant when you know that some shark species have declined by over 90% in the past few decades.
But there’s hope here - and you can help. The New Zealand government will soon be reconsidering its position on shark finning, and they need to know what you think. So why not let them know?
Sharks have had a bad rap. They are a vital part of our ocean ecosystems, and many species are now internationally endangered. They deserve much better than to be callously caught and hacked to pieces for soup. So let’s help New Zealand get onto the side of the angel sharks on this one…
Willie Mackenzie is an Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace UK.