Peace Boat passengers consider the true cost of shark fin soup

Peace Boat passengers prepare to swim with blacktip reef sharks on an excursion in Bora Bora, Tahiti (photo by Yamashita Kanae)
Peace Boat passengers prepare to swim with blacktip reef sharks on an excursion in Bora Bora, Tahiti (Photo by Yamashita Kanae)

With his orange life vest tightly fastened and carrying a plastic water gun, 6-year-old Murakami Yoshinao climbed down the motorboat’s fibreglass steps and plopped into the sea below. The water sloshed around Yoshinao’s shoulders and shadows moved across the bone coloured sand near his feet. Then the blacktip sharks came closer – one glided right past Yoshinao’s grandma.

When Peace Boat docked off Bora Bora in French Polynesia recently, Yoshinao and his grandparents joined a group of other passengers on an excursion to swim with sharks. “They came right at me. I wasn’t scared, I was surprised,” Yoshinao said through an interpreter, crisscrossing his hands in front of his face to show how the sharks were moving. After swimming with them, Yoshinao said, sharks were one of his favourite animals.

Yoshinao’s grandmother Murakami Setsuko said that like many Americans, Japanese people tend to fear sharks. But they also think of them as food. Setsuko said that she occasionally eats shark fin soup and shark meat on trips to Tohoku in northern Japan, where it is a specialty.

In addition to shark fin soup, shark cartilage is used in some alternative cancer therapies. There is no scientific evidence to support its medical efficacy. (Photo by Tre’ Packard/PangeaSeed.org)

Research conducted by Canada’s Dalhousie University and other academic institutions in 2013 – cited in Dan Stone’s article on Ocean Views – suggests that 100million sharks, or between 6.4% and 7.9% of the shark population, are killed every year. This exceeds the 4.9% limit for maintaining population stability.

According to environmental groups finning sharks to sate demand for shark fin soup and other products is largely to blame for endangering one —> Read More

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