LAST UPDATED: 8 November 2016
In 2010, a two metre bull shark washed up on a beach in Northern NSW. She was slowly dying — her fins cut off. All that beachgoers could do was put her out of her misery. While this shark's sad story was seen first hand and reported in papers, millions of sharks suffer a similar cruel fate every year, out of public sight — at sea.
Sharks have swum the world's oceans for more than 400 million years (before dinosaurs), yet in the last 30 years, populations for some shark species have dropped by over 90%  and they may face extinction within our lifetime. The unlikely culprit? A soup.
Shark fin soup was once considered a Chinese delicacy that only the most wealthy could afford. But demand worldwide has grown for this dish and this demand is driving a practice that is seeing shark populations dwindling, and individual animals suffering painfully cruel deaths.
WARNING: some scenes in this video may be distressing.
While there are laws in Australia regarding the finning of live sharks, they are difficult to police, and sadly many parts of the world have no protection at all for these animals. For many sharks, their death is neither quick nor painless.
Shark fins fetch such high prices at market that in many cases, once a fisherman has cut the unlucky shark's fins off, he will cast her back into the water — not wanting to waste space on his boat. Without her fins, the injured shark is unable to swim and therefore unable to circulate water through her gills. She sinks to the ocean floor to either slowly suffocate or be eaten alive — helpless to defend herself or flee.
The immense suffering caused by this slaughter is bad enough, but with the majority of shark species endangered or vulnerable, experts predict that almost all of the world's sharks could soon be gone.
The beachgoers who stumbled across the dying bull shark last week lamented that the shark may have gained more sympathy and immediate action had she been a dolphin. Although humans are more at risk of being struck by lightning than we are attacked by a shark, these amazing animals still struggle to capture the empathy of the public. Sharks feel pain, fear and distress and deserve the same level of protection we would afford any animal.
What You Can Do
Shark Fin Soup can still be found in restaurants here in Australia. If you see this cruel dish on a menu, please explain to the waiter/manager why you will never order it and encourage them to remove it from the menu. When the demand for this dish diminishes so will the threat to sharks.