The question of why the ocean (and the planet, for that matter) needs sharks is one that I see pop up quite often on message boards, blog comments, and video comments. I came across the video below from abc Green Forum, while browsing through Oceanic Defense’s website. It’s a nicely produced video that walks through the potential consequences of wiping out species, including sharks, through over-fishing.
According to The Miami Herald, Chef Phillipe Chow will no longer be offering shark fin soup on the menu at Phillipe Restaurant. In addition to pulling the dish from his upscale Chinese cuisine restaurants, Chow is encouraging other Asian restaurants to stop the use of shark fins. According to Herald, Chow had previously focused on purchasing Mako shark fins from “environmentally friendly sources” but has since decided it’s better to end the use of shark fins at his restaurants altogether.
Kudos to Chef Chow for his change of heart on the issue and for encouraging other restaurants to follow suit. As I’ve seen so often on another shark blog, “It starts with one.”
In related news, The Times-Picayune is reporting that Chef Scott Boswell has removed shark fin soup from the menu at Stella! in New Orleans. The decision to remove shark fin soup from the menu comes on the heels of a review in The Times-Picayune that made mention of shark fin soup, which elicited some negative response from readers (see Readers respond to "Stella!" rave with enthusiasm, outrage. Boswell is quoted as saying that he does not know whether the shark fin he had been using was “humanely harvested” or not, and he currently does not feel right about serving it. Boswell also went on to say that he decided to remove shark fin from his soup recipe until he can get a better grasp on whether or not he should be using it.
According to the article, Sharkfin ‘kingpin’ sentenced for violating protection laws, from the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mark L. Harrison, the so-called "Shark Fin Kingpin", was sentenced to 5 years probation and a $5,000 fine for violating federal wildlife protection laws in a federal court in Atlanta, Ga. In addition to the fine and probation, Harrison has been ordered to place an advertisement in a large-circulation format publication in the fish industry regarding compliance with regulations for reporting shark fins. Updated 08/22/2009 – In addition to the above sentencing, Harrison has been ordered to perform 150 hours of community service. Harrison International was sentenced to pay a fine of $5,000 and placed on probation for five years, according to the News Herald.
According to authorities, Harrison was responsible for buying and selling millions of shark fins over his 20-year career. Harrison was caught trying to ship shark fins from three protected shark species from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in August of 2007. Authorities noted that Harrison dried the fins in potentially unsanitary conditions.
Special Agent, James Gale, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was quoted as saying, "Hopefully, this sentence will raise public awareness of how unlawful commercialization impacts certain species of wildlife." Personally, I think the sentence seems a bit lenient, given the length of Harrison’s career and the potential value of illegal shark fins. However, based on the article, it seems as though Harrison was only being charged for the incident at the Hartfield-Jackson Airport, so for that single event, perhaps, this sentence is considered appropriate.
This feature from 60 Minutes, , which originally aired in December of 2005 was updated on August 6, 2009. It covers the whole gamut of shark tourism and conservation. The segment does feature some footage that will clearly be seen by some as being detrimental to attitudes towards sharks and the shark tourism industry. Most notably a cage breach in which Simon implies that the divers would have “been toast” if the shark had not lost his bearing.
The lead-in to the segment also seems to state in a somewhat “matter of fact” manner that many people believe shark diving has resulted in an increase on shark attacks on beach-goers. It does seem to be somewhat balanced in featuring opinions of those both for and against shark diving, although I think it would have been more informative to see some references to research to support or contradict either point of view. I know there is at least one study on the effects of shark tourism on white shark behavior that was conducted in South Africa, which could have been relevant to the argument.
The segment started out with what I felt like was a somewhat negative attitude towards sharks from Bob Simon, in that he seems to be focused on fears toward sharks early on. However, Simon definitely seems in awe of the white sharks that he dives with in South Africa and even comments that the experience is less about fear than it was marveling at seeing white sharks up close. In the latter half of the segment, the focus shifts from shark tourism to the finning industry and the threat to global shark populations. By the end of the segment, Simon seems to be conservation-minded and even calls for people to give sharks a break.
In the past few days, Patrick McDonnell’s “Mutts” comic strip has been following the perils of “Tony the Shark.” In the comic strip, Tony has been expressing his fears to his crab buddy, “Crabby,” about finning and “shark killing tournaments.” The recent entries in the comic strip are a clever play on the role-reversal of sharks having more to fear from humans than humans having to fear from sharks.
Legally, I can’t re-post the comic strip here on the blog without paying for reprint rights, so I’ve included some links to the comic from the Seattle P.I. below…
Mutts is currently featured in over 700 newspapers and in 20 countries. It’s always good to see the issues of finning, overfishing, and declining shark populations being addressed in a form of media across such a wide audience. Kudos to Patrick McDonnell for addressing shark conservation in Mutts. For more information about Mutts, visit the Offiicial Mutts Website.