Preying on the Predator: The Shark Fin Controversy

The consumption of shark fin soup dates back to the Ming Dynasty in China, when it was served to emperors. Today, the cultural delicacy represents wealth, status, and power. Over the past 30 years, with the rising middle class in China, the demand for shark fins has surged. To address the increasing demand, a group of fishermen came to realize there was little value in carting massive shark bodies to shore when all they needed were the highly valued fins. So they sliced off the fins, and threw the still living, rudderless sharks to die in the open ocean. So began the gruesome practice known as “shark finning.” Shark populations have been unable to withstand the demand for their fins, and dozens of species are now threatened or endangered. From enhancing legislation to control the shark fin market to building sustainable fisheries to promoting synthetic shark fin soup – efforts to address the issue of shark depletion are seemingly endless. And yet despite these efforts, both the market for shark fins and global catch rates have continued unabated. If the demand for fins and the practice of shark finning continue at the current rate, human interference may forever change the nature of our oceans.


Alix Morris

About Alix Morris

Alix is the Director of Communications at Earthwatch Institute with experience in scientific communications and global field research. Alix has a Master’s degree in Science Writing from MIT and a Master’s in Health Science from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. During her time at MIT, Alix focused her thesis work on the effects of shark finning on the marine ecosystem. Prior to that, Alix lived and worked in East Africa, where she conducted field studies focused on improving access to malaria diagnosis and treatment. Alix is interested in marine conservation, natural resource management, and the intersection between public health and the environment. Thesis: Preying on the Predator: The Shark Fin Controversy


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