Posts Tagged ‘shark fin’

Mar 21, 2012

Undercover Investigation Exposes Secrets of the Overseas Shark Fin Market

“The finning of sharks for shark fin soup is a horrible activity. It is the equivalent of cutting off the hands of a monkey in the jungle and then turning him loose. Of course that could never happen, because such atrocities on land are more visible than those that take place at sea. Much of the ocean is out of sight out of mind, and that is why the efforts of Shawn Heinrichs and others to bring shark finning to the public’s attention is so important.”     

– Bill Shedd – AFTCO President

At a fishery in Kesennuma, Japan, hundreds of salmon sharks are lined up, weighed and then their fins are sliced off.

Shawn Heinrichs, one of today’s premiere underwater photographers/cinematographers, was recently featured in one of HDNet‘s Dan Rather Reports segments titled, “All for a Bowl of Soup”. Shawn’s investigative report has produced one of the most disturbing, yet insightful looks yet into the Asian shark fin markets. The evidence captured on film gives viewers a perspective on the death and destruction of shark populations in a way that has likely never been seen before:

* hundreds of bags labeled as “Anchovies from Mexico” overflowing with shark fins

* 6,000-7,000 fins – one day’s haul in just one shop – being sorted, washed and dried

* sharks being finned alive on fishing vessels, then dumped back into the ocean to drown

* a “tuna fishery” that processed less than 100 tuna, yet thousands of sharks – which were caught “accidentally” as by-catch

* a finned nurse shark, still alive, slowly dying on a reef – within a marine sanctuary off Indonesia

If you wish to gain a new perspective on the horrors of shark finning and develop an understanding of the unsustainable destruction that shark populations are experiencing on a global level, then please watch the 7-minute video below (the full 30-minute segment can be downloaded from iTunes, search “Dan Rather: For a Bowl of soup”.

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Mar 14, 2012

Neurotoxins in shark fins: A human health concern

This article was originally published by EurekAlert! global news service.

University of Miami study shows alarming accumulation of BMAA neurotoxins in shark fins; may pose a threat to shark fin consumers

MIAMI – Sharks are among the most threatened of marine species worldwide due to unsustainable overfishing. Sharks are primarily killed for their fins alone, to fuel the growing demand for shark fin soup, which is an Asia delicacy. A new study by University of Miami (UM) scientists in the journal Marine Drugs has discovered high concentrations of BMAA in shark fins, a neurotoxin linked to neurodegenerative diseases in humans including Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig Disease (ALS). The study suggests that consumption of shark fin soup and cartilage pills may pose a significant health risk for degenerative brain diseases.

“Shark fins are primarily derived through finning, a practice where by shark fins are removed at sea and the rest of the mutilated animal is thrown back in the water to die,” said co-author Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, research assistant professor of Marine Affairs & Policy and director of the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program (RJD) at UM. “Estimates suggest that fins from as many as 70 million sharks end up in soup. As a result, many shark species are on the road to extinction. Because sharks play important roles in maintaining balance in the oceans, not only is shark fin soup injurious to the marine environment, but our study suggests that it is likely harmful to the people who are consuming them.”

Seven species of shark were tested for this study: blacknose, blacktip, bonnethead, bull, great hammerhead, lemon, and nurse sharks. Samples were collected from live animals in waters throughout South Florida.

“The concentrations of BMAA in the samples are a cause for concern, not only in shark fin soup, but also in dietary supplements and other forms ingested by humans, ” says study co-author Prof. Deborah Mash, Director of the University of Miami Brain Endowment Bank. The Bank supports basic and clinical research and holds one of the world’s largest collection of postmortem human brains encompassing a wide range of neurological disorders. In 2009, Prof. Mash and her co-authors published a study in the journal Acta Neurological Scandinavica, demonstrating that patients dying with diagnoses of Alzheimer’s Disease and ALS had unusually high levels of BMAA in their brains up to 256 ng/mg, whereas normal healthy aged people had no BMAA, or only trace quantities of the toxin present. “BMAA was first linked to neurodegenerative diseases in Guam, which resulted in the progressive loss of structure and function of neurons.”

The shark study found a similar range and even higher BMAA in the fins tested. The new study found levels of between 144 and 1836 ng/mg of BMAA, which overlapped the levels we measured in the brains of Alzheimer’s and ALS victims. Surprisingly, this level fits with the BMAA levels in fruit bats examined by Paul Cox, animals which concentrate BMAA from their diet of cycad seeds. He linked ingestion of fruit bats to the severe ALS/Parkinsonism dementia that afflicted many people in Guam.

“Not only does this work provide important information on one probable route of human exposure to BMAA, it may lead to a lowering of the demand for shark fin soup and consumption of shark products, which will aid ocean conservation efforts,” added Hammerschlag.

Guy Harvey & tiger shark – Bahamas. Photo courtesy of Neil Hammerschlag.

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Jun 17, 2011

Two Uncommon Species – The Blacktip Shark and Oceanic Whitetip Shark

On any given dive in the Cayman Islands the chances of encountering any species of shark are very slim. Why is this? The primary reason is that most of the large coastal and ocean sharks have been caught in the last fifty years by long line fishing efforts directed at tuna and swordfish and more recently at sharks themselves.

Nowadays, sharks are kept by such industrial fishing operations which remove the fins and sell them to Asian interests. Many species of ocean going sharks such as blues, tigers, hammerheads, makos, threshers  and oceanic whitetip sharks pass by our islands and sea mounts, and have extensive ranges so are considered highly migratory species. These have been heavily fished by high seas long lining operators. Other species exhibit more site fidelity and have a home range such as the Caribbean reef shark and the blacktip shark, which are the species we are more likely to encounter here.

To the untrained, eye blacktips are similar to the reef shark at typically six feet long, with a large dorsal fin and black tips on the pectoral fins. They have a pointed nose and compact body built for speed. They can grow to eight feet and are found worldwide in tropical and subtropical waters.  Blacktip sharks feed over continental shelves on schooling fish such as sardines, jacks and mackerels. On the Pacific side of Panama, I have filmed them feeding on green jacks and scads along with schools of yellowfin tuna and spotted dolphins. In South Africa, blacktips are major predators on the annual sardine run. In Florida, the blacktip shark and the similar looking spinner shark are common near shore predators of mullet, sardines and jacks, and they are frequently caught by anglers fishing from the beach.

Around the Cayman Islands, blacktips are found in the shallow sounds and flats bordered by mangroves, and are primarily fish eaters, but will also consume sting rays and crustaceans. There is a very narrow shelf area here, so the black tip sharks keep to the flats and back reef areas that provide the most food.

An Oceanic Whitetip Shark which ate a trolled bait intended for marlin. Photo Courtesy of Richard Gibson

In complete contrast, the oceanic whitetip shark (OWS) is found roaming the open blue water and rarely comes close to shore. In looking at their shape, you know they are designed for the open ocean habitat. They are large animals with robust bodies, typically about eight feet, but growing up to twelve feet long. They are characterized by their very long, broad pectoral fins, with blotchy white tips as with all their other fins.

They have been a primary target in the shark fin trade and now their populations may be as low as 1% of their pre-exploitation levels in the western Atlantic. They used to be the most abundant “large” animal (over 100lb.) on the planet. Found in all the world’s tropical oceans, typically they associate with flotsam and those species of fish that congregate around flotsam and with migrating marine mammals such as whales and dolphins. They are usually solitary and slow moving, conserving energy between meals which may be weeks apart. Often, they are accompanied by pilot fish and rainbow runners. They are very inquisitive and will investigate anything floating looking for carrion. Tiger sharks exhibit similar behavior.

The only time we see OWS is when we go fishing offshore looking for dolphin fish, tuna and marlin. They may be encountered around a school of dolphin fish and rainbow runners in association with a floating log or shipping pallet.  Off Jamaica, I have seen OWS following pilot whales and sometimes spotted dolphins. During the recently held Cayman Island International Fishing Tournament, Oliver Dubock, a PhD student working with the DoE and Overseas Territory Environment Programme (OTEP), tagged two OWS (caught by anglers participating in the tournament) with electronic tags to learn more about their natural history and migrations. Knowing that this species spends a lot of time at or near the surface, the satellite tags will pin point their migrations around the Cayman Islands. More information will be forthcoming. We know very little about the life history of this species which is on the verge of extinction and is listed as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Open water shark interactive dives, with this species, are safely conducted in the Caribbean and Bahamas without incident, in spite of their inquisitive nature and reputation. But divers are cautioned to interact with the OWS with extreme caution.

If you are diving, snorkeling or fishing and encounter one of these rare species, please call the Dept. of Environment and let them know the location, date, species, approximate size and sex. If you catch a blacktip or an ocean whitetip shark, then take the necessary measurements and photos as well as a tissue sample (fin clip) and then please release them alive.

It is our collective responsibility to conserve the marine environment and maintain the biodiversity of the planet.

Fish responsibly and dive safely.

Guy Harvey

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Jan 25, 2011

Marine Conservation Update

There has been a lot of news in the realm of marine conservation over the past couple of weeks – some good, some bad, and some downright ugly!  Here are some of the more interesting: 

The Good: 

Longlining Outlawed in Panama – Terry Andrews of famed Tropic Star Lodge in Pinas Bay, Panama is reporting that Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli has signed Executive Decree 486, which immediately prohibits all forms of commercial and industrial longlining in all of Panama’s jurisdictional waters!  Fishing boats of 6 tons are less will still be allowed to longline, but only with a strict license and only in designated areas.  For more information about Tropic Star Lodge and big game fishing in Panama, read Guy’s latest book, Panama Paradise: A Tribute to Tropic Star Lodge

Shark Conservation Act Signed into Law – this is great news that seems to have received very little coverage.  On January 4th, President Obama officially signed the SCA into law.  The law closes a loophole which allowed U.S. flagged vessels to buy shark fins on the open sea for the purpose of reselling them in U.S. markets for a rich profit (the act of shark finning has been outlawed in U.S. waters since 2000).  The SCA also allows for sanctions to be out on other nations whose own shark fishing regulations are not consistent with those of the U.S. 

The Bad: 

Guy's latest artwork on the Bluefin Tuna

Tuna Fetches Record Price – A 754-pound pacific bluefin tuna caught off the northern coast of Japan sold for a record price of almost $396,000 (U.S.) in a Tokyo seafood market in early January.  That works out to around $526 per pound!  This is very bad news for a species whose stocks are already severely depleted by commercial fishermen who are trying to meet the overwhelming demand worldwide for sushi.  With prices like this, will we see more fishing fleets going after pacific and atlantic bluefins?  Let’s hope not… 

The Ugly: 

Gordon Ramsay Attacked by Gang? – Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay claims to have been doused in gasoline and held at gunpoint during two different incidents in Costa Rica while trying to document Taiwanese gangs that engage in the illegal shark fin trade.  Ramsay said he witnessed thousands of fins drying out at gang hideouts, and later saw a bag of fins tied to the keel of one of the gang’s fishing boats. 

— Guy Harvey

For a complete list of our other featured blog posts and to see the full line of Guy Harvey Sportswear, please visit: www.guyharveysportswear.com