By Claudio Barría, Doctor on Marine Science and researcher at ICM
Images by Shawn Heinrich and Brian Skerry
Finning is a practice that consists of cutting off the fins of sharks (or rays) when these animals are brought aboard the ship, most of the times casting the bodies alive into the sea. If not eaten by other marine animals, (they have no chance to defend themselves), they eventually die of suffocation.
Besides causing a terrible death, this practice has caused many sharks to be in danger of extinction. The fishermen cut the fins due to their high price (which can reach 600 euros/kg.) and fill the hold of their ships. Afterwards, the body is thrown into the sea, since it has much less value and occupies more storage space.
The demand of Asian countries for fins and their high price has caused more than 100 million sharks to die each year worldwide, with Spain being one of the main suppliers of shark fins.
Currently, finning of sharks is prohibited by the European Union and vessels must unload both bodies and fins. Although in many other countries finning is also prohibited, there are numerous problems for this legislation to be fulfilled, especially in developing countries, causing many sharks to be on the verge of extinction.
Do you want to know more about rules, regulations and the utility/impact of these measures on shark populations? Take a look at this: