Asian Taste for Soup Endangers Sharks

CAIRO, Aug. 9 (UPI) — Egypt says six Yemeni fishing boats captured in its waters might have escaped notice but for their cargo — 20 tons of dead sharks, caught just for their fins.

Shark fishing is big business, with up to 73 million sharks killed each year to feed a global taste for shark fin soup that threatens to drive the animals into extinction, Inter Press Service reported Monday.

“The capture of these boats provided more evidence that a commercial shark fishery is operating in the Red Sea,” Amr Ali, managing director of an Egyptian environmental group said. “These boats don’t have normal gear for catching fish — they’re only after sharks.”

Shark meat is high in uric acid and almost worthless, but the fins are in demand as the main ingredient in the soup, a delicacy in Asia that can bring more than $100 a bowl in Hong Kong, the report said.

“In the last 25-30 years with wealth growing in China, demand has grown for shark fin soup,” says Matt Rand, director of Global Shark Conservation, “and with no limits on the number (of sharks) that can be caught, this has led to a dynamic in which 30 percent of the world’s shark species are threatened.”

Fishermen usually cut all the fins off the live shark and throw it back into the sea to die. The fins are then dried or frozen and shipped to East Asian markets, the report said.

Marine conservation groups consider the practice, called “finning,” cruel and wasteful.

“Without its fins, the shark is left to either suffocate or bleed to death,” Elizabeth Wilson of Washington-based Oceana says. “It is similar to the ivory trade in that the animals are targeted for a single body part that is sold at very high prices on the international market…and this trade is decimating wildlife populations.”

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Categorized | Animals, Conservation, Fish, Other
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