Corporate Social Responsibility writer for Justmeans, Antonio Pasolini is a journalist based in Brazil who writes about alternative energy, green living and sustainability. He also edits Energyrefuge.com, a top web destination for news and comment on renewable energy and Elpis.org, a recycled paper bag/magazine distributed from health food stores in London, formerly his hometown for over a decade....
Shark Fin Cannot Be Branded Sustainable
Western Australian officials have decided to cater to Asia's appetite for shark fin in a controversial move being pushed by the region's fisheries minister Norman Moore.
First, some background information. There is a worldwide campaign to save sharks, who are being pushed to extinction due to Asia's appetite (mainly China) for their fins, which are used in a broth sold for as much as $1,000 a bowl from restaurants in China as well as Hong Kong and Korea. Shark hunters usually cut off the fin and throw the shark back in the water still alive, leaving the animal to die slowly and painfully.
West Australian Fisheries Department decided to capitalize on this cruel trade by playing the sustainability card. It announced it will market shark fin with a green stamp and has commissioned the independent Marine Stewardship Council to analyze the region's catch limits and fishing practices so the region can be certified as a sustainable fishery. The region already exports 30 tons of shark fin a year for between $10 and $20 a kilo. With the green stamp, prices could fetch up to $100 per kilo.
Unsurprisingly, environmental groups were shocked at the news. The fight against shark finning has been a difficult one. Rebranding what is essentially a criminal activity as sustainable will undermine the efforts being carried out worldwide.
The marine coordinator of West Australia's Conservation Council told the Australian newspaper that the initiative would "torpedo the campaign against shark finning, one of the cruelest and most wasteful fishing practices in the world". Elsewhere Michael Sloletsky, of Shark Savers, said he was very skeptical of the move.
Over 100 million sharks are being killed every year. Contrary to popular belief, sharks have become preys to humans, not the other way around. "Sharks have shaped evolution in our oceans for 450 million years, and their diminishment has already been the cause of severe damage to global oceanic eco-systems. Shark species extinctions will cause irreparable damage," said Sea Shepherd's Captain Paul Watson, whose organization is also involved in anti-finning efforts.
Unfortunately, it seems that the West Australian officials are putting a quick, easy buck made from decadent gourmets ahead of the preservation of life and misusing the term sustainability. It's a very misguided initiative that could make the prospect for sharks even grimmer.
Image credit: Terry Goss (Via Stop Shark Finning)