By Jeff Mackey
Just in time for the Discovery Channel's Shark Week comes news reminding us that sharks are not just predators but also often prey—for humans.
Brazil's Environmental Justice Institute has claimed that one seafood exporter has illegally killed nearly 300,000 sharks—just let that number sink in for a moment—in response to growing demand from an increasingly affluent middle class in China, where shark fin soup is considered a delicacy.
While sharks aren't particularly cuddly, that's beside the point. All animals feel fear and pain, and what kind of justification can there be for the hideous cruelty involved in pulling sharks from the water, cutting off their fins, and then throwing them back into the sea to spin to the bottom while they slowly bleed to death? While sharks' predatory nature may give nightmares to anyone who's watched Jaws, humans beat them by far when it comes to the number of victims each species kills for food. And killing sharks in huge numbers threatens the balance of the marine ecosystem.
To its credit, Discovery devotes resources during Shark Week to raising awareness of finning. In light of Hawaii's recent ban on the possession, sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins, perhaps the tide is turning (geddit?) in their favor, but sharks and other threatened aquatic animals still need help.