Helpless Predator

One hundred million per year. That’s 190 per minute. It’s estimated that in 10 years they will all be extinct. With each mutilated body that slowly sinks deeper and deeper in the salty water and gets eaten alive by fish the ocean dies a little more.

Sharks are called “apex predators” the ecosystems depend on them. An effect that has been seen on the US East Coast because of the near elimination of the Black Tips and Tiger sharks is an increase population of rays, creatures that need to be checked by predators so that the shellfish population (natural water filters) does not disappear all together. Since the balance of this ecosystem has been hacked apart the water quality is worsening every year. That’s just one effect. Think what will happen world wide in 10 years when all of the sharks are gone.

Chef Gordon Ramsey traveled to Hong Kong to investigate shark finning, and as a world-renowned chef he felt that he needed to taste what millions of sharks were dying for each year. I gagged as I watched him take a bite, covered my mouth as I heard him say that it tasted delicious, and nearly cried when he followed that comment with, “It’s all in the broth and herbs, this shark fin could be tofu or chicken and I wouldn’t know the difference.” A man that can take a sip of a simmering sauce and detect every single ingredient cannot distinguish the difference between a shark fin and tofu. So why do these incredible creatures have to be wiped off the face of the earth when an imitation shark fin soup can be made?

Longlines are stretched out across a section of the sea. As I watched the documentary it even reminded me of the show Deadliest Catch, where they put out the pods to catch the crabs, the bobbing orange buoys a hopeful beacon for a bountiful harvest. Crewmen of fishing boats all around the world decided to cash in on the $300+ per pound price on dried shark fins. They work together and hoist the magnificent shark up onto the deck of their ship. I half expect them to sing “heave, ho!” while they do it. Then their teamwork turns from memories of watching Treasure Island to a nauseating gore flick.

The blades come out, dulled from too many victims. The great water monster struggles to get back in the water, to be able to breath again, to be able to stabilize the ecosystems. The pirates hack and make the giant fish, or not so giant seeing as sharks of any age and size are taken, thrash around as each of its fins are stolen. I reached for the tissues as the men practiced their soccer kicks and pushed the butchered shark off the deck with their bloodied boots. They joke around as they toss the fins in the lower freezer of the ship. They each have a beer as the captain drives along the line to their next catch. I dab my eyes, because I can imagine the defenseless shark sinking. Would it try to use it’s muscular body to swim? Or would it just take in big breaths and wait for the feast to begin? It must know, being one of the most terrifying predators on the earth, what is about to happen.

Prestige. That is what this all started with. It was once only a dish for the Chinese emperor. Apparently one of his cooks wanted to give his emperor the pride of eating the deadliest creature that rules all the seas. Who came up with the idea to use 1% of a fish? The shark is a very muscular fish, there would be so many fillets to serve, but no instead the creature is sentenced to a slow and unimaginably horrifying death. Now anyone can have a bowl of shark fin soup for around $100 or more. It is the equivalent of dolled up women going shopping at Tiffany’s, they don’t go to enjoy it, but rather be seen enjoying it.

Imagine looking at salty sweaty men as they swing blades into your limbs, you fight, but there is nothing you can do, your lungs are searching for air, but finding none. Once they have taken what they want they throw you into the forest for the animals to find you. You can breath, but you have no power to move yourself, you have only to listen and watch as the teeth find you and you are shared amongst many bellies.

I come from a hunting family, so I understand that protein needs to be obtained from animals, and that the animals have to die in order for that to happen. But to waste the vast majority of that protein, and push not only one but hundreds of species towards extinction, that is a travesty. These fishing boats don’t even throw back the babies. There are many obscenities that I want to call these fishermen, but I will settle for malicious ignoramuses. Don’t you know that every living thing needs to reproduce in order for there to be more for next years catch? Or do you just want to cash in on the destruction of 100s of species while you still can?

When will we see that there is prestige in leaving these creatures be?


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