A preview of NOAA’s forthcoming July 16 announcement to allow an increase of shark takes has stunned this environmentalist.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration intends to increase the amount of Large Coastal Sharks than can be retained per boat or trip from three sharks per day to a whopping 36! This represents a 400% increase in the allowed landings of sharks for the remainder of the season.
Why? According to NOAA it is “to promote equitable fishing opportunities in the Atlantic region, while allowing quota to be harvested throughout the year”.
For many years, the environmental outcry has been against the practice of shark ‘finning’.
Some estimates claim that over 65 million sharks a year are killed, many only for their fins to make the popular and expensive delicacy called sharkfin soup.
As with the majority of ocean fish, most of a shark’s body is edible. A large shark can feed a family for a month. However, a fisher often gets more money for just the fins than for the rest of the shark.
Sharks are heavy and take up a lot of space on ships at sea.
A vessel that maxes out at five sharks can easily hold the fins of fifty sharks instead. Thus evolved the diabolically cruel practice of cutting off a living shark’s fins while at sea. The squirming shark’s mutilated body is tossed back into the ocean to drown slowly or be horribly crushed by ocean depths.
Why dismember a living shark?
It is much more time and cost efficient than waiting for the shark to die. Sharks can survive for hours out of the water … not comfortably of course and not without suffering debilitating damage. A ‘quick-kill’ entails several minutes of shark-head beating with a metal pipe or baseball bat. On a crowded and active fishing vessel tossed about by the sea, wildly swinging an object around is not recommended. Neither is firing spear guns or firearms into a fish on deck.
Slicing fins off living sharks became the fastest and most efficient method of creating a 12 oz. bowl of soup.
Virgin Islands fishers have not been reported as engaging in the practice of finning sharks.
Large Coastal Shark sales are to a small local population that prefers a thick juicy fillet over a few water-soaked chunks of spiced fins. There still exists a market for VI fishermen selling shark-skin for deck shoes and shark oil for burning and medicine among some Eastern Caribbean islands. So, in the Virgin Islands, the entire shark is typically sold and used.
However, given the magnitude of world-wide shark slaughter, some island residents are of the opinion that every shark counts. Whether the shark is being finned or landed whole, fishing them contributes to the decimation and eventual extinction of most sharks.
Below is what NOAA has to say on the matter.