Shark finning is, of course, a huge problem for sharks and for the health of our oceans. People all over the globe are working hard to stop this practice of parting sharks from their fins, often while the sharks are still alive. Progress is being made, thankfully, through increased awareness of this problem and through shark fin bans. However, shark finning is, unfortunately, not the only challenge facing shark survival. We may want to think that it is because, in a way, shark finning is easier to deal with than other problems sharks have that hit closer to home. We can think that we’re not part of the problem because we aren’t personally cutting fins off of sharks and rays and we’re not eating shark fin soup. But we’re not off the hook for shark conservation! Sorry for the terrible pun.
Not only are shark body parts used in a wide array of products that we might be using (from cartilage pills to lipsticks - look out for “squalene”) but sharks can be impacted by the seafood we eat. Sharks are often victims of bycatch, which means that they may be unintentionally caught in nets or on lines when fishermen are intending to catch other fish instead. Shark habitats can also be destroyed with certain methods of fishing and trawling are used. However, by eating sustainable seafood, we can ensure that our eating habits are not negatively impacting the chondrichthyans we love.
There are many great resources that exist to help navigate the maze of sustainable seafood. It’s worth noting that there are companies that tout “sustainable” fishing practices without any standards or certification to back it up. That’s why it’s so important to use trusted, certified sources of information when choosing seafood. Truly sustainable seafood does not cause the overfishing of vulnerable populations (like sharks) and is harvested using methods that don’t cause damage to the environment.
If you’re in the United States, the Seafood Watch program is indispensable when figuring out what seafood is sustainable and what’s not. Started by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, this program assesses fisheries and fish populations constantly and updates their recommendations accordingly. You can use their website to search for specific species and fishing methods or even use their app (it’s available for iOS and Android and simply called Seafood Watch). The app even lets you know which grocery stores and restaurants sell sustainable seafood in your area! You can pull up the app while out for dinner or when ordering at a grocery store counter. Yes, the app and the website ask for specifics (where the fish came from, how it was caught) that the restaurant or store might not be able to provide but if they don’t know where their food came from, do you really want to eat it?
If you are outside of the United States, there are many other international organizations that can provide help with choosing sustainable seafood. Seafood Watch has a list of resources from other countries here.
I will admit that it can sometimes be challenging to figure out what seafood is sustainable and sometimes it means making sacrifices, like picking a backup option on the menu when a sustainable one isn’t available. However, choosing sustainable, environmentally-conscious seafood is worth doing when considering the future of Chondrichthyans and the ocean as a whole.
GUEST BLOGGER AND TFUI OFFICER MARGARET HANZLICK-BURTON
Margaret Hanzlick-Burton is an educator at the Seattle Aquarium, a graduate student working toward a master’s degree in biology, and a lifelong shark enthusiast and advocate. You can check out her podcast “Frow Ew! to Oh!” on SoundCloud and peruse her blog at twobirdsonescone.org.
Margaret has also written...
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
SEARCH BY CATEGORIES