Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Shadow Shark Slaughter

Shark slaughter. It's a term that I've used quite often. 100 million sharks are killed every year, mostly for a bowl of soup. The vast majority of people who are aware of shark finning believe that it is a Chinese problem. That China is responsible for plummeting shark populations. Well they certainly do have a lot of blame on them and rightfully so. China remains the go to place for shark fin soup and shark fins as a whole. However, there is another nation that has quietly gone for over 60 years killing sharks at will. That country is none other than Japan. At this point Japan seems to be after any animal that is incredibly important to the Ocean. Other than sharks, let's take a really quick look at two other slaughters Japan is guilty of commiting.

This slaughter needs no real explanation if you had followed Operation Sadistic Truths or anything involving whaling in the world. Japan is attempting to destroy whale populations in the Southern Ocean as well as their own territorial waters. Next...

Another slaughter that needs no explanation if you followed my last campaign or have ever seen the documentary The Cove. Every year Japan slaughters hundreds and hundreds of dolphins in the town Taiji. Next and the main topic and slaughter of this blog...

Photo: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society/Kim McCoy

What you are seeing in this picture are thousands of sharks, not in China, but in Japan that are being finned. Many people believe that China is the sole problem when it comes to the plight of sharks. That is simply not the case. One of my blogs from Operation Sadistic Truths highlighted a major victory for five species of shark that should result in increased protection for those animals. Sadly, Japan has decided to enter a reservation. What that means is that Japan has said they will be openly ignoring the ruling. Strangely, China, who also opposed the new protections, have not entered a reservation and apparently have no plans to do so. China plans to abide by the new protections. China, the global capital of shark fin soup has decided not to ignore shark protections? Sounds pretty good right, well it is. However, Japan's unwillingness to cooperate with these new rulings is incredibly alarming and sad.

Not many people are aware, but Japan has been fishing for sharks since the 1950s. In China, things are a little bit different. It wasn't until the 1960s that shark fin soup started to increase in popularity, so realistically, Japan has been killing more sharks over a longer period of time than China. While China is certainly more into catching sharks for their fins, Japan has other motives in their catches. As I've said multiple times, shark fins sell at a very high value so Japanese fisherman catch a shark and sell the fins to China. So what happens to the rest of the shark.

One of the main targets of the Japanese shark fishing industry is this shark...

The blue shark...

The blue shark is a large target of the Japanese shark fisherman. As you may or may not know, blue shark meat is simply put not good. So the Japanese are not catching these sharks for their meat. The answer to why Japan seeks as many blue sharks as possible lays inside of the shark itself. While the fins of a blue shark are still worth a pretty penny, the rest of the shark's body is essentially worthless. So again, what is the drive to catch blue sharks? The answer is a product called chondroitin sulfate (I'll call it CS for short) which comes from shark cartilage. The CS is combined with Glucosamine to create a drug that is for joint pain relief. Don't believe me, check out your local pharmacies, chances are at least one of them will have shark cartilage pills on the shelf. Of course there are plenty of alternatives, both animal and plant products, that give the same joint relief as CS. Literally, there is zero reason for this kind of a product to exist when there are so many more sustainable alternatives.

On a side note: Japan has no regulations or quotas on catching sharks. Basically sharks are free game.

Now before people fly off the handlebars and start screaming racist and I hate Japanese people and stuff, allow me to explain. Japan has proven time and time again that they have no real regard for the lives of many animals that live in the seas. Whether it is their false claims at research whaling, hiding a massive slaughter of dolphins from the world, or quietly going about slaughtering sharks, there is virtually no regard for the future of these animals. It is not just Japan though that needs to clean up it's act. Japan is just the country that happens to get caught trying to slide by international law or trying to hide things from their own people (including funds for the 2011 tsunami relief going towards security for their illegal whaling practice in the Southern Ocean and rebuilding warehouses that stored sharks) or even trying to deny that what they are doing is actually dangerous to the Ocean.

The United States is also guilty of severely damaging shark's chances for survival in the world. Once a forerunner in shark conservation, the United States is now seeking to undermine the Shark Conservation Act of 2010 and in a very concerning graphic it becomes quite clear just how many sharks the United States are going through to collect on the shark cartilage bandwagon. I will end this blog with that image. Nothing more really needs to be said.
Photo: Gary Stokes/Sea Shepherd

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