Save Tuna, Sharks, Top Marine Predators & Ocean Wildlife with Global High Seas Marine Preserve
Large top-of-the-food-chain marine predators such as tuna, sharks and whales can be rescued from industrial and harmful fishing practices thru establishment of the Global High Seas Marine Preserve. Banning industrial fishing in international waters, and finding a way to enforce the ban, would a chance for the depleted fish stocks to return and save the fishing industry, not destroy it as many believe.
A clear path to putting more pressure on politicians to enact such a ban is for consumers to stop buying seafood products harvested by industrial methods and demand sustainable sources of seafood. Changing the economic behavior of large fishing corporations will take place when their products no longer are purchased by markets, restaurants, wholesalers or, hopefully, fish farms. A major problem has come with small fish being targeted because they can be sold to salmon farms.
Appetite for Destruction: Eating Bluefin Tuna Into Extinction
Sushi has become a staple of nearly every American’s diet—yet most of us have no clue about the economics and environmental impact involved in getting fish from the sea to our plates. From Los Angeles to Japan, host Sasha Issenberg—journalist and author of The Sushi Economy—follows the trail of the threatened Pacific bluefin tuna to find out if our appetite for sushi just might end up devouring this diamond of the sea.
Tuna on the Edge of Extinction
“My big fear is that it may be too late,” said Sergi Tudela, a Spanish marine biologist with the World Wildlife Fund, which has led the struggle to rein in the bluefin fishery. “I have a very graphic image in my mind. It is of the migration of so many buffalo in the American West in the early 19th century. It was the same with bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean, a migration of a massive number of animals. And now we are witnessing the same phenomenon happening to giant bluefin tuna that we saw happen with America’s buffalo. We are witnessing this, right now, right before our eyes.”
The quote above is from a National Geographic Magazine article, Still Waters: The Global Fish Crisis, from 2007. In the intervening years Mr. Tudela was praised for his work with the ICCAT in bringing changes that prevented the collapse of Bluefin fisheries in the Mediterranean Sea.
In September 2013 he was given an award as described here: “Champions for sustainable fishing in the Mediterranean were recognized with Conservation Merit awards at the World Wildlife Fund Annual Conference. Dr. Sergi Tudela has personally led the campaign to stop overfishing of the Mediterranean Bluefin tuna for over a decade, seeking to restore this iconic fishery to good health. Fighting years of greed and vested interests, and with tuna stocks close to collapse, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) finally heeded the science and reduced quotas: the fishery is beginning to recover. And a committee representing all stakeholders involved in the artisanal Mediterranean sandeel fishery was commended for its novel participative, bottom-up approach to achieving sustainable fishery management.
However, the situation could quickly reverse in the Med and it continues to be a dire all over the world as large predators get slaughtered wholesale all the time.
Cruelty of Shark Finning
One of most unsightly and sadistic practices in the industrial harvesting of marine life is Shark Fining, which involves cutting the fins off live sharks, for soup, and discarding the fish as it suffers a painful and immobile death helpless in the ocean or suffocating on the deck of a fishing trawler.
About 70-million sharks are slaughtered annually on the high seas with dire consequences to marine environments should they go extinct. When the top-of-the-food-chain marine predators disappear the balance of the complex ecosystems will be upended and that will be trouble for the oceans and human existence.
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What is shark finning?
Shark finning is the practice of slicing off the shark’s fins while the shark is still alive and throwing the rest of its body back into the ocean where it can take days to die what must be an agonizing death. Some sharks starve to death, others are slowly eaten by other fish, and some drown, because sharks need to keep moving to force water through their gills for oxygen. Shark fins are used as the principal ingredient of shark fin soup, an Asian “delicacy.”
Demand for shark fin soup has rocketed in recent years due to the increased prosperity of China and other countries in the Far East. Shark fin soup, which can easily cost $100 a bowl, is often served at wedding celebrations so that the hosts can impress their guests with their affluence. Because there is such a high demand for shark fins, traders can make a lot of money from shark fin, but it is the restaurant owners who really “make a killing” in this foul trade.
Fishermen are only interested in the fins because shark meat is of low economical value and takes up too much space in the hold. It also contains urea, which turns to ammonia once the shark has died and contaminates other fish.
Shark fin itself is tasteless, it just provides a gelatinous bulk for the soup which is flavoured with chicken or other stock. Many people, especially the consumers, are unaware of the suffering that finning causes.
What effect has shark finning had on shark populations?
To put it bluntly, shark populations have been decimated. Globally. Tens of millions of sharks are slaughtered every year to satisfy the demand for shark fin soup; at least 8,000 tonnes of shark fins are shipped to restaurants around the world. Fishermen report that sharks are getting smaller because they are not being given time to mature. Shark populations take a long time to recover as they can take over seven years to reach maturity and they only raise one or two pups a year.
Twenty species of sharks are listed as endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). In a few years many species of shark could become extinct if action is not taken immediately. Populations of many shark species have fallen by over 90%. Since 1972 the number of blacktip sharks has fallen by 93%, tiger sharks by 97% and bull sharks, dusky sharks and smooth hammerheads by 99%.
What will happen to the oceans of sharks become extinct?
The consequences of the decline in shark populations on ocean life are immense. The large shark species are “apex” predators, they are ecological stabilizers, once they are gone, all hell will break loose. For example, along the U.S. East Coast where large sharks such as black tip and tiger sharks have been virtually eliminated, there have been declines in shellfish numbers and a reduction in water quality (shellfish filter sea water). Populations of small sharks, rays and skates have increased rapidly, consuming shellfish at an unsustainable rate. If you remove apex predators from an ecosystem the result is the same as removing the foundations from a building – total collapse.