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Shark fin soup demand has put the fish at risk

 Times of India, Delhi, 6th July 2014

 

The National Marine Fisheries Service on Thursday classified as endangered and threatened four distinct populations of a shark species whose fins are favored as an ingredient in shark fin soup. The agency said it's listing scalloped hammerhead sharks in the eastern Atlantic and eastern Pacific oceans as endangered, which means they're at risk of becoming extinct. The central Pacific population is considered fairly healthy and isn't being listed. The new classification responds to a petition filed by the environmental groups WildEarth Guardians and Friends of Animals.

 

"The listing of the scalloped hammerhead is an important indication that the human exploitation of marine species has taken its toll," said Michael Harris, the director of the wildlife law program at Friends of Animals. Once listed, federal agencies will have to make sure their actions don't jeopardize the species or harm the species' critical habitat. Carl Meyer, a shark researcher at the Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology, said demand for shark fins is driving overfishing of the species. The high number of fibers in scalloped hammerhead fins makes them particularly desirable for shark fin soup, he said.

 

Fisher men are catching juveniles also. "Of course, if you take away all of the small ones, then you don't get any big ones, and the population starts to decline dramatically," Meyer said. They're better off in Hawaii because there's no market for sharks as a commercial species, said Kim Holland, also a researcher at the Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology. Studies indicate the Hawaii population stays in waters relatively close to shore, which may give them some additional protection. That's because longline fishing fleets can accidentally catch the species, but the Hawaii-based fleet fishes further from the coast.