Thursday, 28 March 2013
Sadly, the Government of Canada has voted to support the shark finning business. So I, and many other shark advocates in British Columbia are demanding a total ban on shark fins in the province. This is an open letter I have just sent to the members of the B.C. Government asking that they act swiftly to block shark fins at the B.C. coast.
Dear Honourable Members,
Given the federal decision to support the shark finning business, we are writing to urge you and your government to ban the importation of shark fins into Canada via its west coast, and make it illegal to import, export, trade, possess or distribute shark fins. By halting this province’s contribution to the crisis, you will broadcast the strong message that British Columbia refuses to play a role in driving so many species of sharks to extinction.
The destruction of endangered species cannot be acceptable under any pretext. Further, in slaughtering sharks in incalculable numbers on the coast of every country with a tropical or temperate coastline regardless of legal protections, and including countries in which sharks are held sacred, the shark fin business shows a total lack of respect for other cultures. The monetary value is so high that much of the trade is in criminal hands, and has resulted in threats, intimidation and murder, especially of journalists and researchers.
Shark fin soup is a vanity dish: its cost is a supposed measure of the wealth of the buyer and his ostentatious largesse to give and receive honour, with its alleged magical properties an excuse for consumption. But in a protein starved world, the waste represented by cutting off only 3 percent of each of tens of millions of animals for consumption and discarding the rest, is indefensible.
An oceanic crisis has been precipitated by this practice. Shark populations world-wide have plummeted by 90 percent, with some populations at 1% of pre-1985 levels. The decline is comparable to the loss of buffalo from the great plains two hundred years ago, but on a global scale. The elimination of the top predators from all oceans will ultimately be reflected in comparable ecological upheavals world-wide; some are already apparent.
Every second at least three sharks are finned for shark fin soup—the latest estimate is between 63 and 273 million sharks slaughtered annually, an unsustainable massacre that is driving one third of about one thousand shark and ray species into extinction.
In recognition of this immense problem, California, Oregon, and Washington states have made it illegal to trade, possess, or distribute shark fins. So we respectfully ask that you act swiftly to block shark fins from entering the continent via British Columbia, and declare a total ban on the importation, exportation, possession and trade of shark fins in the province.
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Monday, 11 March 2013
Delegates at the CITES conservation meeting in Thailand's capital, Bangkok, have voted to extend protection under Appendix II to all three species of hammerhead sharks, the porbeagle shark, the oceanic white tip shark, and manta rays. This represents a decisive step in the right direction in terms of limiting commercialization and trade of these hard pushed sharks and their relatives, the rays.
When I discovered sharks in the South Pacific in the nineties, you could still meet white tipped oceanic sharks exploring outside the reef, and when I asked a dive master about them being finned, he said, so what? They are among the most abundant animals on the planet. Not any more. While I was there they vanished, and the dolphins and reef sharks once preyed upon by the oceanic sharks no longer appeared with shark-bite scars, and increased in number. And the reef sharks were fished beginning in 2003. Those are the most remote islands in the pacific, so if the pelagic species are gone from there, they are likely not more numerous closer to the continents. Asian divers say it is hard to find sharks in Asia, there are problems with the finning of the sharks off Africa, and the same story is echoed around the globe by eye-witnesses on location.
In the Mediterranean Sea, in the heart of Europe, scientific analysis of available data indicates that formerly common sharks have declined by 99.9 percent, and in other large oceanic regions such as the Gulf of Mexico, sharks have been depleted to a similarly tiny fraction of their pre-industrial level.
Looking out across the planet, the loss of sharks compares with the loss of buffalo from the American plains but on a global scale, a daunting loss of life that no one in their right mind would consider normal or sustainable. Imagine seeing only a few birds where once you saw clouds of birds filling the skies. That is the kind of loss the accessable free swimming species of sharks have experienced.
Thank you to the delegates at CITES for taking this much needed step!