Why Save Sharks?

What is involved in shark finning?

How do declining shark populations impact the environment?

Why is shark fin so popular?

Why save sharks in Canada?

Why save sharks in Calgary?

Aren’t sharks a threat to humans?

What is the health value of consuming shark products?

 

What is involved in shark finning?

Shark finning is the inhumane practice that involves catching a shark and cutting off all of its fins while it is still alive. After the fins are cut off, the shark carcass is discarded back into the water. Often, the shark is still conscious and unable to swim without its fins Sharks need to have water constantly flowing over their gills in order to breathe. When a fin-less shark slowly sinks to the bottom of the ocean, it suffers a slow & painful death by either suffocation or hemorrhage. Additionally, fin-less sharks may be eaten alive by other fish and bottom feeders on the ocean floor.

There is no discrimination of age, species, or endangered status. The higher up on the endangered species list, the higher the market value of the fins.. Over 90% of the animal is wasted, because shark meat has little or no value. Over 73 million sharks are caught per year. Scientists estimate that, at the current rate of shark finning, all shark species will be extinct in 10 years.

Source:
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2011). Shark utilization, marketing and trade. Retrieved October 23, 2011 from
http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/x3690e/x3690e1g.htm

How do declining shark populations impact the environment?

Sharks have been part of our ocean’s ecosystems for 420 million years and they play a critical role, helping to maintain a balanced ocean ecosystem. As apex predators, sharks keep the oceans in healthy balance because they are at the top of the oceanic food chain. They regulate species abundance, distribution and diversity, which impacts the health of marine habitats. Additionally, they provide essential food sources for scavengers and remove the sick and weak from populations of prey species.

The decimation of these important shark species can have cascading effects throughout the ecosystems they inhabit, resulting in economically and ecologically devastating consequences. In areas of the ocean where shark populations have been destroyed, some species explode in population and other valuable species disappear as a result. Studies have shown what ocean ecosystems look like, or will look like, without sharks. The many consequences include a collapse in economically important fisheries, the shift of coral reef ecosystems to algae dominated systems, and the decline of sea grass beds. Species diversity and abundance declines with the loss of sharks.

Sharks are important for our own survival. Half of the oxygen we need for survival is produced via phytoplankton photosynthesis. Phytoplankton is responsible for taking in carbon dioxide molecules and turning them into oxygen.  Millions of these tiny marine plants drift near the ocean’s surface. Tiny animals called zooplankton eat the phytoplankton, as well as clams and other small fish. Jellyfish, some whales and other fish in turn eat the zooplankton.  Larger fish eat the animals that feed off of the zooplankton and the cycle continues. Any link in this food chain that is missing will create an imbalance.

Sharks control the population of species that feed off phytoplankton. A decline in shark populations will cause a steady decline of phytoplankton and, in turn, the oxygen levels of the ocean. Oxygen on Earth is very dependent on the oxygen of the ocean.

Source:
Miller, E., Miller, K., Freitas, B., & Hirshfield, M. (2008). Predators as prey: Why healthy oceans need sharks. Retrieved November 8, 2011 from www.oceana.org

Why is shark fin so popular?

Shark fins were first established as an ingredient in formal Chinese banquets prepared for the emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD). At that time, there was only one emperor and many sharks in a pollution-free ocean. At that point, sharks were not being over fished and shark meat/fins were not toxic. Many of these dishes earned a permanent place in Chinese cuisine through imperial tradition and, at that time, gained their reputation from being difficult or expensive to source.

Consumption of shark fin remains a status symbol today. Shark finning has increased dramatically over the past decade due to increasing consumer demand for shark fins – most commonly for shark fin soup. This is predominantly a result of China’s strong economic growth and the emergence of a proportionate middle class in the last 10-20 years.

More people are now able to afford this luxury dish that ranges from $10 to $200 per bowl. This dish has become a popular delicacy served in wedding ceremonies and banquets. On average, one shark’s fins are used for 6 bowls of shark fin soup. One “traditional” wedding can average 300 people.  That equates to 50 sharks for one wedding. One pound of dried shark fin can retail for $300 or more. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that runs rampant with corruption.

Over 73,000,000 sharks are slaughtered annually to keep up with the demand for shark fin and, at least 1/3 of shark species are threatened with extinction or listed as near-threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red list as of 2009.

Source:
Clarke, S., Milner-Gulland, E., & Cemare, T. (2007). Social, economic, and regulatory drivers of the shark fin trade. Marine Resource Economics 22, 305-327. Retrieved from http://mre.cels.uri.edu/

International Union for Conservation of Nature (2011).  The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Sharks. Retrieved October 1, 2011 from http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/search

Nance, H., Klimley, P., Galvan-Magana, F., Martinez-Ortiz, J., & Marko, P. (2011). Demographic processes underlying subtle patterns of population structure in the scalloped hammerhead shark, Sphyrna lewini. PLoS ONE 6(7): e21459. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021459 Wildaid (2010). Sharks: Background. Retrieved September 27, 2011 from http://www.wildaid.org/sharks

World Wildlife Fund (2005). Marine Awareness Survey: Seafood Consumption. Retrieved October 1, 2011 from http://www.worldwildlife.org/home-full.html

Why save sharks in Canada?

Two key issues generally hamper the conservation and management of ocean biodiversity in any country, including Canada.

  1. Oceanic ecosystems lie far from land, making it difficult to monitor the consequences of human activities for biodiversity.
  2. Shark species range primarily in the high seas outside countries’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), beyond the immediate concerns of national jurisdictions. Finning bans, which prohibit the retention of shark fins on board vessels without the corresponding carcasses, are the most widely implemented shark management measure.

Prohibition on finning in Canadian waters was introduced in 1994, and extends to any Canadian licensed vessel fishing outside of the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Mortality levels due to finning, however, may continue to be significant by foreign vessels in international waters, especially for species that do not have good market value for the meat, such as the blue shark.

Canada has the longest coastal line of any country which is home to 27 different shark species. Canada has a legitimate shark fishing industry and foreign vessels are not closely monitored, possibly resulting in shark finning, For these reasons, Shark Fin Free Calgary encourages supporters to sign a federal petition to change the Fisheries Standard that will protect all sharks in Canadian waters until they are at least of reproductive age. This petition can be found along with our petition to the city of Calgary on our website and at various locations around the city.

Source:
Clarke, S., Milner-Gulland, E., & Cemare, T. (2007). Social, economic, and regulatory drivers of the shark fin trade. Marine Resource Economics 22, 305-327. Retrieved from http://mre.cels.uri.edu/

Dulvy, N., Baum, J. , Clarke, S., Compagno, L., Cortes, E., Domingo, A., Fordham, S., Fowler, S., Francis, M., Gibson, C., Martinez, J., Musick, J., Soldo, A., Stevens, J., & Valenti, S. (2008). You can swim but you can’t hide: the global status and conservation of oceanic pelagic sharks and rays. Aquatic    Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 1-24. doi: 10.1002/aqc.975

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2007). Canadian Atlantic pelagic shark integrated fisheries management plan. Retrieved on November 8, 2011 from http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/communic/fish_man/ifmp/shark-requin/index_e.htm

Why save sharks in Calgary?

Shark fin is served in over 30 restaurants* and other establishments that we are aware of right here in Calgary! Additionally, many restaurants not advertising shark fin on their menus, will often make it available for special order for banquets and other events. For every soup bowl not sold, a shark ultimately gets saved. Although it may not be heavily advertised, shark fin soup is popular throughout Canada. When the buying stops the killing can too! (*independent survey)

Another reason that makes saving sharks in Calgary so important is because there is a proportionally high number of scuba divers certified & living in Calgary, compared to the rest of Canada. In June and July 2011, Honduras and the Bahamas joined Palau and the Maldives in declaring their waters as shark sanctuaries and prohibiting commercial shark fishing therein. These nations have come to realize that shark eco tourism is far more profitable than killing the animals for their fins and is a sustainable industry for these countries. Calgary divers make up many of these eco tourism revenues annually.

Source:
PEW Environment Group (August 1, 2011). Pew Applauds Pacific Island Leaders’ Call for Regional Shark Sanctuary [Press release]. Retrieved October 12, 2011 from www.pewenvironment.org

Finally, Calgary continues to battle this image of being environmentally irresponsible, specifically with regards to the Oil & Gas industry and the Oil Sands projects in Northern Alberta. Calgary can continue to be innovative and show Canada and the world that it’s citizens do care about the big issues.  We urge all Calgarians to support our bid to have Calgary be the NEXT city to get a Shark Fin ban approved, not one of the last.

Let’s show Ottawa that Calgarians care enough to pass our own bylaw, joining other major cities in the hopes of encouraging this issue to be addressed expediently on a national level on behalf of all Canadians.

Aren’t sharks a threat to humans?

Shark attacks on humans are very rare. In fact, your chances of being the victim of an unprovoked shark attack are lower than your chances of being struck by lightning, injured in a hunting accident, dying from a peanut allergy, or even attacked by a domestic dog. Even though the odds are in your favor, sharks are wild animals that must be respected when encountered. The negative stigma created towards sharks, from such movies as Jaws, has led to the mass culling of sharks simply out of fear and hatred. In addition, shark culling as a form of retaliation against shark attacks, and as a form of believed ‘human safety’ has also been popular. Although shark attacks are extremely rare overall, the few that do occur are widely publicized by the media resulting in heightened public fear and calls for management actions to increase public safety.

Media likes to suggest to people that sharks are highly dangerous animals that devour anything that crosses their path – including humans. Such statements are propagated at random and are completely unfounded.

Source:
Dulvy, N., Baum, J. , Clarke, S., Compagno, L., Cortes, E., Domingo, A., Fordham, S., Fowler, S., Francis, M., Gibson, C., Martinez, J., Musick, J., Soldo, A., Stevens, J., & Valenti, S. (2008). You can swim but you can’t hide: the global status and conservation of oceanic pelagic sharks and rays. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 1-24. doi: 10.1002/aqc.975

Godin, A., & Worm, B. (2010). Keeping the lead: How to strengthen shark conservation and management policies in Canada. Marine Policy. doi: 10.1016/jmarpol.2010.02.006

International Hunter Education Association (2011). Incident Reports. Retrieved October 22, 2011 from http://www.ihea.com/news-and-events/incident-reports.php

National Canine Research Council (2011). Dog Bites. Retrieved October 22, 2011 from http://www.nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/dogbites/whatisadogbite/

PeanutAllergy.com (2011). Peanut Allergy Statistics. Retrieved October 23, 2011 from http://www.peanutallergy.com/statistics-and-facts.html

Shark Savers (2011). Myth: Shark attacks are common. Retrieved October 22, 2011 from http://sharksavers.org/en/education/shark-myths/12-myth-shark-attack.html

What is the health value of consuming shark products?

There is controversy on the real benefits of shark products, but one thing that is not disputable is the high level of mercury in shark products. It’s important to understand how mercury gets into the food chain. Mercury enters the air as a byproduct of industrial activities. Airborne mercury is deposited on land and water, where micro-organisms convert it to a more biologically active form called methylmercury. Methylmercury is bio-accumulated in fish muscle tissues as a result of ingesting other organisms that contain methylmercury. Methylmercury levels are then augmented through the food chain when predators, such as sharks, eat organisms that have already bioaccumulated methylmercury in their tissues. Over time, these fish accumulate the highest tissue concentrations of methylmercury and it accounts for more than 95% of organic mercury in fish muscle tissues. It is these types of predatory fish that are most consumed by humans.

A 0.5-ppm allowable limit has been established for most of the fish consumed in Canada, however a 1.0-ppm limit for total mercury has been allowed by Health Canada for shark with the issuance of a Consumption Advice. Shark fin tissue samples taken off of the Atlantic coast, however, have had up to 1.83-ppm of methylmercury, Pacific coast: up to 1.93-ppm, New Zealand: up to 2.2-ppm, Seychelles: up to 4-ppm, The Gulf of Mexico: up to 10.52-ppm & China: up to 14-ppm. Seafood importers are responsible for ensuring that their products meet Canadian regulatory requirements including the food safety standards established by Health Canada. Interestingly, imported products are only tested on a randomly selected basis.

Studies have shown that methylmercury exposure, in humans, can have impacts on fine motor function, attention span, verbal learning, memory loss, delayed development, mental retardation, language disorders, decrease in IQ, alterations in blood pressure, infertility, seizures & more.

Shark fins are also often processed and prepared using arsenic, hydrogen peroxide and formaldehyde. Shark fins tested in Haikou, China were found to be so contaminated with arsenic that they exceeded China’s own national guidelines for marine products by 13-32 times.

Shark cartilage has also been used in many pseudo-scientific folk remedies. Studies have shown that bovine cartilage has the same restorative qualities as shark cartilage. There is also a false belief that sharks don’t get cancer and, as a result, shark cartilage is often used as a “cancer remedy”. Studies have proven that sharks do get cancer and other diseases and that use of shark products as cancer remedies is completely unfounded.

Source:
Branco, V.,  Canario, J., Raimundo, J., & Reis, C. (2004).  Total and organic mercury concentrations in muscle tissue of the blue shark (Prionace glauca S.1758) from the  Northeast Atlantic. Marine Pollution Bulletin 49, 854-874. Retrieved from
http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/400/description

Burger, J. & Gochfeld, M. (2010). Mercury and selenium levels in 19 species of saltwater fish from New Jersey as a function of species, size and season. Science of The Total Environment 409(8), 1418-1429. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2010.12.034

Cai, Y., Rooker, J., Gill, G., & Turner, J. (2007). Bioaccumulation of mercury in pelagic fishes from the northern Gulf of Mexico. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 64, 458-469. doi: 10.1139/F07-017

Canadian Food Inspection Agency (2008). Food safety facts on mercury and fish consumption. Retrieved October 2, 2011 from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/chem-chim/environ/mercur/cons-adv-etud-eng.php

Canadian Food Inspection Agency (2009). The regulation of imported fish and seafood products in Canada. Retrieved October 10, 2011 from      http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/fispoi/import/inspe.shtml

Environment Canada (2004). Examining fish consumption advisories related to mercury contamination in Canada. Retrieved October 1, 2011 from http://www.ec.gc.ca/MERCURY/EN/efca.cfm

Godknecht, A. (2000). The cruel business with shark cartilage. Retrieved October 22, 2011 from http://www.sharkinfo.ch/SI3_00e/cartilage.html

Gusow, L. (2008). Toro!! toro!! toro!! Mercury – tainted sushi: Toxicology rounds. Emergency Medicine News 30(4), 10-11. doi: 10.1097/01.EEM.0000316459.13906.0c

Health Canada (2009). Consumption advice: Making informed choices about fish. Retrieved September 29, 2011 from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/chem-chim/environ/mercur/cons-adv-etud-eng.php

Sanchez, O., Magana, F., & Martinez, R. (2008). Mercury and selenium bioaccumulation in the smooth hammerhead shark, Sphyra zygaena Linnaeus, from the Mexican pacific ocean. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 84(4), 488-491. doi: 10.1007/s00128-010-9966-3 Shark Savers (2011). Shark fin soup is not healthy. It can be toxic. Retrieved September 24, 2011 from http://sharksavers.org/en/learn-more/shark-fin-soup-is-not-healthy.html