Sharks are often caught for their fins in order to make Shark Fin Soup, an oriental soup traditionally flavoured with chicken or other stock. While the fin does not actually give flavour to the dish, it is added to give texture. Consumers are often told the soup provides many health benefits, such as strengthening your bones or even preventing cancer; but there is no evidence to support these claims and the levels of mercury found in the meat will actually make it dangerous to consume.
The fins are cut from the sharks often while the shark is still alive. The shark is then often thrown back into the ocean as its meat is worth much less than the fin. Without their fins which they need to swim, these sharks either die from suffocation or are eaten alive by other marine animals.
Whilst many nations have banned shark finning, many international waters such as the Pacific and Indian Oceans are unregulated.
The UK is one of the many countries around the world which still supplies Asia with shark fins. Shark finning still happens in UK waters!
Find out more about shark conservation issues at:
The Shark Alliance
Sharks are long living and reach sexual maturity late, which means they are more likely than other species to be fished before they have had a chance to reproduce. They generally have low reproduction rates and long gestation periods.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed the Blacktip Reef Shark as Near Threatened, so although the species as a whole remains widespread, overfishing of this slow-reproducing shark has led to its decline within a number of locales.