Shark finning is the practice of slicing off the shark's fins while the shark is still alive and throwing the rest of its body back into the ocean where it can take days to die what must be an agonising death. Some sharks starve to death, others are slowly eaten by other fish, and some drown, because sharks need to keep moving to force water through their gills for oxygen. Shark fins are used as the principal ingredient of shark fin soup, an Asian "delicacy". Demand for shark fin soup has rocketed in recent years due to the increased prosperity of China and other countries in the Far East. Shark fin soup, which can easily cost $100 a bowl, is often served at wedding celebrations so that the hosts can impress their guests with their affluence. Because there is such a high demand for shark fins, traders can make a lot of money from shark fin, but it is the restaurant owners who really "make a killing" in this foul trade.
Fishermen are only interested in the fins because shark meat is of low economical value and takes up too much space in the hold. It also contains urea, which turns to ammonia once the shark has died and contaminates other fish.
Shark fin itself is tasteless, it just provides a gelatinous bulk for the soup which is flavoured with chicken or other stock. Many people, especially the consumers, are unaware of the sufferring that finning causes.
A San Francisco journalist is currently fund raising 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. Go to http://spot.us/pitches/647-san-franciscans-move-to-reduce-shark-slaughter, then click the FUND STORY button to find the surveys that drop $5 in the bucket.Tell Senator Coburn to stop blocking the anti-shark finning bill (October 4th 2010)Just one man is blocking the total ban on shark finning in American waters: Senator Tom Coburn. The senator from Oklahoma decided to block progress of the bill, due to concerns that it will cost too much money and is a "special interest" concern. He is also blocking four other bills, intended to protect cranes, great cats and wild canines, sea otters and other marine mammals. Dr. Coburn evidently knows nothing about the oceans, otherwise he would understand that protecting the oceans will save billions of dollars. Healthy oceans are not a luxury, as Coburn seems to believe, they are a necessity - for all of us. It seems Senator Coburn is content for American oceans to be stripped of sharks so that their fins can be used to pamper the palates of the Chinese middle class. Please write to Senator Coburn at these email addresses:
It has come to my attention that you are not supporting the passage of the shark finning bill. I understand that you have decided to oppose the bill because of concerns about it being a special interest bill and because of costs to the American tax payer.
Sir, I believe the oceans are not just the concern of special interest groups. They are a concern for all of us, they are a legacy for our children. Sharks are vital for a healthy ocean, and healthy oceans are vital for our planet and of huge value to all of us.
Shark fins are being harvested from oceans all over the world to feed the demand for shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy. The consumption of shark fin soup has increased exponentially over the last twenty or so years due to increased prosperity among the Chinese middle class.
Do you want to let them decimate American oceans of our remaining sharks, just for a soup? I believe you are doing America an injustice by opposing bill S.850.
Further to this, I cannot imagine that the cost of this legislation could be anything other than negligible. Any cost that is involved must surely be insignificant compared with the long-term cost of allowing America’s oceans to be depleted of its sharks.
I respectfully ask that you withdraw your opposition to bill S.850.
You can also call or fax his team at the following numbers:
Washington D.C.: 172 Russell Senate Office Bldg. Washington, DC 20510
Main: 202-224-5754 Fax: 202-224-6008
Tulsa: 1800 South Baltimore Suite 800 Tulsa, OK 74119
Main: 918-581-7651 Fax: 918-581-7195
Oklahoma City: 100 North Broadway Suite 1820 Oklahoma City, OK
Main: 405-231-4941 Fax:405-231-5051
Tell Senator Tom Coburn to vote for the shark protection bill (September 29th 2010) Senator Tom Coburn has objected to S. 850, the Kerry shark protection bill, passing by Unanimous Consent. If this bill is not passed it will be a huge setback in shark conservation. Don't let Senator Tom Coburn turn back the clock on shark conservation.
Please call him or email him: He is on Twitter: @TomCoburn If you have a Twitter account, please tweet this message: @TomCoburn Pass the shark protection bill S. 850 #s850 #stopsharkfinning. He is also on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/teamcoburn
KCET Update: Shark fin soup restaurants promotion cancelled (September 21st 2010)KCET have decided to abandon their contest/promotion of the Empress Pavilion restaurant, an establishment that serves shark fin soup, due to the number of comments and complaints they received. This sends an important message to restaurants that sell shark fin soup - it is no longer acceptable! It's no more acceptable than selling ivory or any other "product" from an endangered species. A big thank you to everyone who emailed KCET or commented on their website, and especially to Jason Kaye for calling KCET and convincing them to do the right thing. Tell KCET to stop promoting shark fin soup on their website (September 20th 2010)Californian non-profit media organisation KCET are promoting the consumption of shark fin soup, and in particular the Chinese restaurant Empress Pavilion, based in Los Angeles, that offers shark fin soup on their VIP menus. They are offering a meal for six for the winner of a contest. Send a polite but firm email to KCET asking them to stop promoting establishments that serve shark fin soup.
Eating shark meat can cause irreversible neurological damage (August 23rd 2010)It has been known for a number of years that methyl mercury is a highly toxic chemical that can cause severe damage to the central nervous system. But it's only recently that scientific analysis has revealed the high concentrations of methyl mercury in shark meat, including, of course shark fins. The Shark Project recently compiled a report titled "Methyl Mercury: The danger from the sea". The organisation found that even small amounts of shark meat can contain dangerous quantities of the chemical. Due to its nature, methyl mercury can pass the blood-brain barrier, causing irreversible neurological damage; it can also affect unborn babies causing mutations, cancer and damage to vital organs. It also causes a massive reduction in male fertility - something that may be of surprise to those who consume shark fin soup as it is traditionally thought to improve male fertility. Apparently nearly all the methyl mercury consumed is assimilated by the body, it is not excreted, so it just keeps building up and potentially causing more damage to the body's organs and nervous system.
The conclusion of the Shark Project's report is that sharks are dangerous - but only if you eat them. For more information read the report at http://www.sharkproject.org/Content.Node/kampagne/laufende_projekte/stop-sales/methylquecksilber.en.php, or download it in pdf format at http://www.stopsharkfinning.net/docs/mercury-report.pdf. Campaign Against Shark-Finning in Costa Rica (August 16th 2010)The practice of shark finning has been banned in Costa Rica. But fishermen have found bizarre loopholes in the legislation that allows them to continue finning. For example, Taiwanese finning ships are now docking illegally, at private facilities, to escape the reach of the law. Ethical Traveler are campaigning to get the Costa Rican authorities to take steps to save the sharks in Costa Rica. They are demanding:— Costa Rica's customs laws be strictly obeyed, even in privately owned docks; — Shark meat be properly labeled, so that consumers are not misled; — Directed shark fisheries be banned, and shark quotas established; — Marine Protected Areas be created in coastal waters that serve as critical habitats for sharks, and in oceanic migratory corridors between Cocos Island National Park (Costa Rica) and Galapagos Islands National Park (Ecuador go to http://www.ethicaltraveler.org/costa-rica-shark-finning and sign the campaign letter to show your support for sharks in Costa Rica. Update: Citibank withdraws shark fin soup restaurant promotions. (July 27th 2010)Citibank has withdrawn all of its shark fin soup restaurant promotions, both in Singapore and Hong Kong. "In response to the feedback received, Citibank has stopped all shark fin promotions in Singapore (with effect from 24 July 2010) as we are committed to conducting our business in line with our corporate social responsibilities... Citi will continue to consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of our operations and business activities on customers, employees, shareholders, communities and the environment. "Please notify Stop Shark Finning if you come across any more similar promotions, either from Citibank, or any other company. Citibank promotes shark fin soup restaurants. (July 23rd 2010)Citibank recently withdrew a promotion that offered clients 15% off shark fin soup at a Hong Kong restaurant. A short campaign by Facebook activists caused the bank to quickly back pedal and see sense. However, while the promotion in Hong Kong has been withdrawn, they still have similar ongoing promotions in Singapore, including one with Thai Village Sharksfin Restaurant.
Please send comments and submittals to the Editor: Linda Beane
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