Source: Nature: "The Secret World of Sharks and Rays"
Major corporate support for the Nature collection was provided by Canon U.S.A. and SC Johnson. Additional support was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the nation’s public television stations.
The demand for shark fins in the Far East has lead to the death of millions of sharks each year. Fishermen wishing to capitalize on what Asians consider a delicacy and a medicinal food will slice off the shark's fins and discard the carcass in a process called finning. As a direct result of this practice, shark populations are decreasing around the world. In this video segment from Nature, fishermen net and remove the fins of sharks in order to sell them in the global fish market.
Sharks and their biological cousins, the rays, are among the highest-profile denizens of the deep. But sharks are not the solitary killing machines that popular movies and the press might have us believe. In their marine environment, sharks coexist with numerous other species - many of whom flock to be near the sharks, rather than running from them in fear. In many of these cases, the interaction between two different species mutually benefits each species. But humans, too, have become an increasingly important player in the lives of sharks - and as they are increasingly hunted for their fins, sharks are actually becoming more endangered than they are dangerous. The impact on the marine ecosystem that would result from the disappearance of sharks would be devastating, but there is still time to save these magnificent creatures, and the ecosystems that depend on their existence.
For a long time, shark fishing was small scale. Fishermen would catch enough for their local markets. It's still done this way in some places -but today there is a huge international demand, especially in Japan and other parts of Asia.
In a shark net off Mexico, a Scalloped Hammerhead has met its end.
So has a Silky Shark.
And another Silky. When only a few sharks were taken at a time, their numbers could recover. When more are taken, shark populations plummet.
Rays are fished as well. Rays and Sharks are in grave trouble because, Unlike bony fish, they reach sexually maturity later and don't bear many young at a time. Their numbers can't recover quickly. Because of this, they shouldn't be viewed the same as other fish when it comes to commercial consumption. In recent years, the global shark fishing market has exploded. And one part of the shark is in great demand: its fins.
Often, sharks are taken only for their fins. In Japan, especially, they are believed by many to have medicinal value, and to work as an aphrodisiac. There is no scientific evidence to support these beliefs.
This shark was about to give birth. The death of this one female meant the death of many sharks.
These fins are the prized ingredient for soup that has sold for as much as one hundred and fifty dollars a bowl in Japan. Shark-fin soup now sells for less, becoming available for the masses.
Factory fishing ships race to meet the demand. This shark's fins are being cut off.
As a direct result of this practice, shark populations are collapsing around the world.
Only the fins have been taken, yet the sharks are then thrown back into the sea -often still alive.
But Asia is not the only offender. In the U.S. and Europe, shark cartilage pills are commonly sold as health food. Their popularity grows in spite of evidence that they are nothing more than expensive placebos.
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