Congratulations California, you finally got it together. Yesterday morning Governor Jerry Brown signed bill AB376 (check it out) into law, thereby banning the possession, trade and sale of shark fins in Californian waters. Along with Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Guam, we were previously the largest importers of shark fins outside of Asia bringing in an estimated 570 metric tons of shark fins in 2009. Now with finning banned in all of these states, this is a great day to add to a momentous year for sharks all around the world. A win like this just goes to show, that scientists and people who care about the oceans can truly make a difference. This brought a big smile to my face while drinking my coffee this morning.
However, my elated mood was quickly dampened as I started to read some of the comments that certain people were posting. For instance…
“Thanx gov brown,you just raised up the price for shark fins,And when a shark bites off the arm or leg of one of your kids,Then maybe you will think twice before signing another bill like this,You are a fool.”
“I have been eating sharks for over 40 years.no one is going to make me stop catching and eating them.everything in the world has mercury in it and no one is dying from it.Go back to tending your sheeple.Sharks dont need to be protected.People need to be protected from the gov idiots that are messing up the USA”
“i’t won’t do much..CA isn’t the biggest consumer in shark fin’s. Most chinese resturant don’t use authentic shark fin’s anyways its way to expensive and not alot of people buy it in resturants.
Also i don’t think the ban will do anything much since im sure if you go to Chinatown you will be able to find some even if it’s banned.
The biggest consumer are people in China & Hong Kong.”
“This bill will do NOTHING, touchy feely worthless paperwork…..”
Really people? Really?
Okay, so I don’t really care about your political views. That’s your own business. And as much power as politicians may have over issues such as these, it’s more than just a political issue. I know we live in a country where you are entitled to your opinions and you constitutionally hold a right to voice such opinions, but ignorant, uneducated comments such as these must be addressed.
When it comes to sharks, perhaps the biggest threat surrounding them is fear. Thanks to Hollywood thrillers such as Jaws, Deep Blue Sea and numerous other misinterpretations of shark behavior (some could even argue Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” is included with these), the public perception of sharks is that they are man-eating, cold-hearted killers.
Let’s take a look at the stats shall we. We are now dealing with the annihilation of not just a couple of species, but of an entire branch (not to mention one of the oldest branches) on the phylogenetic tree of life. According to the International Shark Attack File kept by the Florida Museum of Natural History, there were 79 shark attacks globally in 2010, 6 of which were fatal. I am not belittling this number in any way, it is unfortunate yes, but it is without doubt that these were accidental as we are not quite on the menu for sharks (contrary to popular belief, they are not out to get us). However, if you flip the coin and compare it to the roughly 73 million sharks that are slaughtered annually, you must question,
“Who should be afraid of who?”
For those out there who don’t really like dealing with numbers, here is a nice visual from a documentary of which I highly recommend watching. In an effort to save sharks by showing the world what is going on in oceanic waters beyond the public’s sight, filmmaker Rob Stewart created “Sharkwater.” Although at parts it might be a little cheesy, it depicts a telling and true tale about the battle sharks are facing and losing globally.
Along with a clip that I am still unable to watch all the way through:
Bottom line. Sharks must be and can be protected. They are top-predators in the ocean for a reason. They maintain the balance and currently the balance is being massively upset. These beautifully powerful and ecologically essential creatures are facing massive extinction and it is at our hands. Legislation such as the bill passed yesterday and numerous others that have been put into action this year around the world, DO HELP. They are not, however, the end all be all. We must change our habits, our perspective and our mentality. Don’t be ignorant in thinking that this is a foreign problem and will never affect you. Believe me, if sharks populations cannot rebound from these atrocities, it will affect all of us. Educate yourselves. Educate your friends. Be the change.
Finally to leave you with this, a recent PSA created by WildAid and NBA all-star Yao Ming really puts it all into prospective:
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