Sharks -- they’re not for dinner. Not at the Herbal Café in Beijing, at least, where customers can belly up to a bowl of imitation shark-fin soup. Shunning the real thing has become a popular environmental statement in China, kind of like avoiding fur or driving a Prius, Jonathan Kaiman reports for The Times.
That’s good news for conservation groups, which have blamed shark finning for driving some shark species to the brink of extinction. The nonprofit Pew Environment Group singled out the worst offenders last year, using United Nations data to identify the 20 countries that reported catching the most sharks from 2000 to 2008. These nations caught nearly 80% of the sharks landed across the globe:
If you're used to thinking of shark killing as a problem only in Asian countries where shark-fin soup is popular, you may be surprised to see Spain, France and the United States on the list at all.
Countries that don't consume sharks may catch them to cash in on demand in Asia; Spain is the leading supplier of shark fins to Hong Kong, according to the Pew report. Some seemingly unlikely countries have large fishing fleets across the world, said Jill Hepp, one of the managers of the Global Shark Conservation Campaign run by Pew. Other countries catch other kinds of sharks than might spring to mind: The U.S. catches a lot of dogfish, a small coastal shark that is used in "fish and chips."
This information isn't perfect. Countries report the numbers themselves, which means some nations may simply stay mum about the sharks they catch, Hepp added. Pew also found more than a dozen countries that export shark products but don't report catching any sharks at all, which could mean that they only process sharks caught by other countries or that they are not reporting it the right way.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Fishermen display their caught sharks for sale at the traditional fish market in Lampulo, Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Credit: Hotli Simanjuntak / European Pressphoto Agency