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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs