This topic has been chafing at me for some time now and an article I read yesterday again brought it to my attention. Today I wrote an article that will show up on our front page tomorrow, delayed so as not to dilute some of the other things that are on the site today.
I have to admit that at some point in the past I've sat beside people who have eaten shark-fin soup. I've never tried it myself, just as I've never tried many things in the large number of Asian restaurants I've been in over the years.
Vancouver is blessed with a huge number and diversity of restaurants. We have them from virtually every culture in the world, especially from the Asian world. Lots of the things that have been staple diet for our Asian immigrants and visitors are things that the typical North American of European descent simply would not think of eating. I'm sure there are similar things we eat that they would not too.
The fact that at the time (and I know it is decades ago) I did not even think twice about the fate of the shark is no excuse. Today I'm thinking about not only the fate of the individual sharks that go into the making of this dish but also the rest of the ecology that surrounds the shark and makes up a critical portion of the ecology of the ocean; that of predation and top predators. If we live long enough, we sometimes learn about things we should have done in the past - but it's never too late to at least try to fix something.
With sharks it is not too late, yet. Some species have less than 1 percent of their former numbers, and some species are simply not represented by any large and mature specimens, but so far things have not gotten to the point of no return. What HAS happened is that the issue has gone on long enough that science and governments are noticing and documenting the real cost of allowing this practice to continue.
The sharks eat smaller fish, rays and such, that themselves eat things like shellfish. Lose the predation of the sharks and the numbers of the smaller fish grows - and the numbers of THEIR prey, the shellfish for example on the East Coast of North America, falls. When the shellfish numbers fall, the ocean gets dirtier - because the shellfish are "filter feeders" - pulling their nutrients from the plankton in the water. Too much plankton and the oxygen/carbon dioxide balance changes and the fish can't cope - and we end up with dead zones.
Wheels within wheels - ecology has taken millions of years to reach the equilibrium it has maintained up until man grew numerous enough to stress things.
But don't take my word for it - do some research yourself. Find a cause and help. Tell people what you've learned and if you can, influence people to impact the planet less. If you have friends who eat at Asian restaurants, tell them it is no longer socially acceptable to eat shark-fin soup - and tell them to tell others. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.