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Shark fins for soup? Unfortunately, if you want them, they're easy to buy

December 12, 2008 | 11:27 am

A shark falls victim to a gill net off Mexico.

News item: Conservation group WildAid, on CNN's "Planet in Peril" series, calls for an international ban on shark-fin soup, citing the brutal slaughter by finning of nearly 100 million sharks each year. Most of the fins go to Asian countries, where the dish is considered a delicacy.

Reaction: Such a ban, if one ever becomes a reality, is not likely to be effective, unfortunately. Shark populations will continue to be decimated and the marine ecosystem will continue to suffer because of it.

A doom-and-gloom response? Sorry, but all previous attempts to prevent the wanton slaughter of slow-reproducing sharks have failed and as long as there's demand the slaughter will continue. And there is a huge demand.

All you have to do is visit the China-based Alibaba.com website, enter "shark fins" and you'll discover that vendors in most Third World nations and many industrialized nations -- including the United States -- sell them.

Salted, unsalted, dried ... If you want 'em, you can have them shipped by the kilo, as many as you want.

I checked on Alibaba this morning and found several pages of companies selling shark fins. On the first page alone there were companies based in the Maldives (three), Singapore (four), Indonesia (two), Bangladesh, Cameroon, Thailand, Vietnam, Ecuador, Spain, United Arab Emirates, and elsewhere.

Shark fins dry like somebody's laundry on a boat in Yap, Micronesia.

One company, World Wide Trading, is based in Monrovia, Calif. It also specializes in scrap metal. Another company, Alfonso Lopez and Partners, is based in Homestead, Fla. It claims to sell shark fins from Ecuador and whole sharks caught in the U.S. A photo above the company profile shows dead sharks scattered on what looks like a warehouse floor.

Perhaps the conservation groups, aside from calling for a ban on shark-fin soup, ought to also go after Alibaba and demand that the global-marketplace website stop allowing the sale of shark fins.

That'd at least make them a little harder to obtain.

--Pete Thomas

Photos: In top photo, a shark falls victim to a gill net off Mexico. Credit: SeaWatch. In second photo, shark fins dry like somebody's laundry on a boat in Yap, Micronesia. Credit: Associated Press