Even though it is illegal in most countries, shark fin soup can easily cost upwards of $100 per bowl. In some cultures the fin is said to have many health benefits like boosting sexual potency, enhancing skin quality, increasing one’s qi or energy, preventing heart disease, and lowering cholesterol. For this reason the number of sharks who are killed for their fins around the world is staggering. In fact, a study that was published in March estimated that our world loses more than 100 million sharks every year.
All about money, University of British Columbia researcher Andres Cisneros-Montemayor is hoping to show countries that keeping the sharks alive could actually net them more money.
Shark-watching tourism he says, generates about $314 million a year and that figure is expected to surge to $780 million in the next 20 years, according to the study in the journal Oryx – The International Journal of Conservation.
The value of world shark fisheries is now $630 million a year and has been declining, experts in North America and Mexico have noted.
In recent years Palau, the Maldives, Honduras, Tokelau, The Bahamas, the Marshall Islands, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia and New Caledonia have created sanctuaries by banning commercial shark fishing.
“Many countries have a significant financial incentive to conserve sharks and the places where they live,” said Jill Hepp, director of global shark conservation at the Pew Charitable Trusts which took part in the study. Pew urged more sanctuaries.
Tourism, the study says, draws almost 600,000 people annually to watch sharks from hammerheads to great whites, supporting 10,000 jobs in 29 countries.
The only problem is that many Asians love shark fin soup are unlikely to abandon the dish in favor of tourism. It is also known in the Chinese culture to show wealth – especially when served at weddings.
Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the global marine program at the International Union for Conservation of Nature would like to see fishermen see that there is a higher value from organizing tourism – such as running boat trips to view sharks or renting scuba gear – than from killing them for fins.
Earlier this year many were shocked when thousands of shark fins were found laid down to dry in Hong Kong.
Conservation authorities and government agencies must come together to create a new plan for individuals who believe that this is the only way they can support their families. Because is something doesn’t happen soon, our oceans will be empty.