Can’t let Shark Week go by without a culinary connection to those magnificent marine monsters—if there’s time for a bit of reading between watching episodes of Zombie Sharks, Sharkageddon and Sharksanity.
Or maybe catching re-runs of Sand Sharks, Swamp Sharks, Raging Sharks, Avalanche Sharks, Mega Shark, Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark, or my favorite, Sharktopus (a hybrid octopus-in-back, shark-head-upfront killer—created by the military, of course).
But along with a collective fascination we share in watching documentary footage of real sharks—plus the guilty pleasures of straight-to-cable shark-attack movies, there is a serious ecological crisis involving the creatures that have roamed the oceans since before dinosaurs walked the Earth.
While we’re gawking at the sheer insanity of the Sharknado movies—to be clear, sharks can’t really swim across a flooded lawn, leap through the air, crash through someone’s front window and bite their head off while they’re standing knee-deep in water in their living room—real sharks are under attack worse than anything their cinematic cousins are depicted doing in even the most egregious, over-the-top scenes of carnage.
(By the way, do you know where the world’s most dangerous beach for shark attacks is located? It’s not in Australia, land of the Great Whites (although Down Under’s high on the list); it’s New Smyrna Beach in Florida, just south of the more famous Daytona Beach).
Here’s the crisis: According to WildAid, an NGO dedicated to ending illegal trade in wildlife, an estimated 100 million sharks are killed every year, with as many as three-quarters of them sold only for their fins.
China is unquestionably the world’s primary market for shark fins, and due to the country’s growing affluence, a global hot spot for luxury goods, which shark fins were traditionally considered. But here’s the good news: sales of shark fins dropped drastically in the last decade, according to a report by WildAid, mostly because the conservation message is connecting with a younger generation with online access to information about the ecological role sharks fulfill.
For example, sales of shark fins in Guangzhou, considered the hub of the Chinese shark fin trade, have dropped by 82%, to the point that wholesale traders are complaining that sales are decreasing and prices are falling. One wholesaler quoted by WildAid said that, “Shark fin is a dying business.”