Preventing the Decline of Sharks

By Khatijah Abdullah

The Malaysian Nature Society was invited to take part in the Malaysian International Dive Expo (MIDE 2008) recently by presenting 2 talks on various issues. We chose to give a talk on pygmy seahorses and a talk on sharks.

On July 6th, the coordinator for the MNS (Selangor Branch) Marine SIG’s Fins – Best on Sharks Campaign, Kerry Stansfield, presented a talk on sharks, including its background, facts and figures and also the current situation of shark populations worldwide. Although there was a slight problem due to the change of the talk time, it was well attended. We had about 15 people there to listen to the talk. Most of the audience was from Taylor’s College, who were there as part of their project on shark’s fin consumption. We also had other visitors, who were curious and wanted to learn more about what sharks are all about.

Kerry also pointed out the hazards in consuming shark’s fin soup or shark meat for that matter. The mercury content in shark meat and especially its fin is very high due to environmental pollution. Being the top predator in the marine ecosystem, the accumulated mercury from the lower level of the food chain ends up in sharks and by consuming the creatures, we put ourselves at risk of mercury poisoning. The major contributor to shark population depletion is the demand in fins, mainly for shark’s fin soup, as well as other dishes such as fish and chips. It is estimated that nearly 100 million sharks are killed each year to fulfill this demand.

It is hoped that through talks like this, we would be able to make a difference in conserving shark populations worldwide as well as protecting our health in the process.