Should the plight of the shark concern us? It may be difficult to feel the same sympathy for sharks as we might for elephants or whales. However, we must recognize their vital role in maintaining the ecological balance of the oceans. For example, their feeding habits currently serve as a check on other fish populations.
Shark fishing is unregulated in many countries. After a ten-year debate, Mexico, a major shark-fishing nation, where over 30,000 tons a year are harvested, recently passed a law prohibiting shark finning. Further highlighting the difficulties involved, demand for shark fins has led to the proliferation of illegal fishing in marine reserves in different parts of the world. For example, the director of the Galápagos National Park Service laments: “The illegal fishing for shark fins in the Galapagos has increased dramatically in the past few years. It’s very profitable and has created a mafia here.”
A positive step has been taken toward saving the shark—the practice of finning was banned by some countries. However, Charlotte Mogensen, a policy officer for the World Wildlife Fund, warns that much more is needed. She states: “Sharks remain in peril all over the world. We urge all fishery management organizations to adopt not only finning bans, but requirements for shark data collection, bycatch reduction and sustainable catches.”