News / USA

Genetic Analyses Show Endangered Species in Shark Fin Soup

Zulima Palacio
Each year, fishermen catch millions of sharks, cut off their fins, and dump the bodies into the ocean to die. The fins are used to make shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy sold in many countries. Recently, a team of scientists and environmental groups collected soup from restaurants across the United States and analyzed the soups' genetic make-up. They found endangered species on the menu. 

More than 73 million sharks are killed every year, mostly for their fins, to make shark fin soup, industry experts and conservationists say. Shark fin soup is a common offering in many Asian restaurants around the world.

A bowl of shark fin soup is being served at a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown, California, February 14, 2011.A bowl of shark fin soup is being served at a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown, California, February 14, 2011.
x
A bowl of shark fin soup is being served at a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown, California, February 14, 2011.
A bowl of shark fin soup is being served at a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown, California, February 14, 2011.
The Field Museum in Chicago and the Pew Environment Group looked at 51 soup samples in 14 U.S. cities. DNA analyses identified eight shark species, some of them endangered.
 
“The major finding is that there are endangered species in shark fin soup sold in the United States.  One sample taken from Boston had scalloped hammerhead," said Liz Karan, who heads the global shark conservation campaign at the Pew Environment Group.  "Scalloped hammerhead is considered endangered by the International Union of Conservation’s red list of endangered species.”

Shark finning - cutting off the fins while the shark is still alive and throwing the body overboard - is banned in the United States. But shark fishing and the import of fins are allowed.  So far, only five U.S. states have banned shark fin products.

“Overfishing of sharks is a global problem.  Hong Kong is currently the hub of the shark fin trade, and there are about 80 countries that contribute to that trade,” said Karan.

Workers cut off fins from frozen carcasses of a sharks at a fish processing plant in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, November 15, 2011.Workers cut off fins from frozen carcasses of a sharks at a fish processing plant in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, November 15, 2011.
x
Workers cut off fins from frozen carcasses of a sharks at a fish processing plant in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, November 15, 2011.
Workers cut off fins from frozen carcasses of a sharks at a fish processing plant in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, November 15, 2011.
Over the last 60  years, the world's shark population has plummetted by nearly 80 percent, according to a study by the Pew Environment Group. The group believes sanctuaries for sharks could help them.  

“They have a very long life span and often don’t reach sexual maturity until their teens or 20s and, when they do reproduce, some species only have a couple of pups at the time. So their ability to repopulate and recover from overfishing pressures is very small,” said Karan.

The Humane Society International leads one of the largest campaigns to protect sharks. Iris Ho is the wildlife campaigns manager.

“Over 90 percent of the world’s shark fin consumption takes place in China, and Hong Kong alone handles about 50 percent of the global trade in shark fins,” she said.

The Chinese government has announced it will stop serving shark fin soup at official functions. Ho says outside of Asia, the U.S. is the largest market.
 
”According to government records, in 2010, 34 metric tons of shark fins were imported to the U.S.,” she said.  

Sharks have been around for 400 million years, pre-dating the dinosaurs.  But scientists believe they may be unable to survive this ongoing assault.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More