Finning Frenzy: Reconsidering How We Address Global Shark Exploitation

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Kealoha Freidenberg
Essay Abstract: 
Shark fisheries have been historically, and continue to be, an overexploited globally shared resource. The rising demand for shark fins, used for the Chinese delicacy, shark fin soup, has led to the unsustainable practice of shark finning. Additionally, the creation of markets for other shark products, including shark meat and shark liver oil, has exacerbated this problem. In recent decades, many shark populations have suffered steep declines as a result of overfishing, and many species are now on the brink of extinction. Despite increased understanding of global stock and population trends, international legislation continues to fall short in terms of protecting vulnerable and endangered shark species. In this essay, I outline the national and international shark legislation that exists today and use three case studies to exemplify factors contributing to shark overexploitation, including overfishing and lack of international management. I also examine the ways in which this international legislation is falling short, and the vulnerable shark species that are not receiving international management or protection. This research supports the argument that I make: a radical shift is necessary in the way shark exploitation is examined and approached, and international regulation and management strategies should be implemented as preventative measures, rather than a way to minimize population decline once already drastically depleted.