Shark fins are prized as a delicacy in some countries, where they are used as an ingredient in shark fin soup. To procure shark fins, fishermen engage in a practice called finning, which involves butchering sharks for their fins, and then tossing the rest of the carcass into the sea. Various strategies have been implemented to halt the practice. The sale of shark fins has been made illegal, or the practice of finning has been banned. To reduce the demand for shark fins, publicity campaigns have condemned their consumption. There is some evidence that these measures are working.
But while the trade in shark fins had dropped, the consumption of shark meat is up. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), global imports of shark meat increased by 42% between 2000 and 2011. What’s driving this trend? It’s complicated.
Alastair Bland writes for NPR The Salt:
“[Shelley] Clarke says bans on finning could actually be driving new markets for shark meat. That, she speculates, is because in places where sharks were once de-finned and their carcasses dumped at sea, now whole sharks are being delivered to port. While their fins would remain the more valued item, it is likely that fishermen may be selling the meat and creating new appetites for a product that wasn’t before utilized – bad news for sharks.”