Naturally, there are many reasons why protecting sharks is not the cause of choice for the average Westerner. For one thing, sharks are scary. And the centuries-old practice of eating them – part cultural tradition, part big business – is mostly happening on the other side of the world.
Most Americans don't eat shark-fin soup, so why should they feel responsible for the slaughter that makes it possible? Besides, with crises such as hunger threatening nearly one billion people worldwide, and the dark economic cloud looming over the rest of us, we have more pressing concerns.
Those are all the very excuses that, until recently, I used.
But we can no longer afford to make excuses. Over half of the world’s people depend on the oceans to provide their primary protein sources. If hunger is a global crisis now, imagine what will happen when those food sources disappear as the marine food chain is drastically altered. Today, we risk losing sharks – and tens of thousands of other species we depend on – to what scientists are calling the sixth great extinction (think dinosaurs).
This is unique to the last five extinction periods in history for one reason: Humans are causing it by driving sharks and millions of other living creatures toward the endangered list in order to uphold tradition and economic structures. As shark numbers decrease, fin traders and fisherman may ultimately run themselves out of business, but not before other parts of the ecosystem collapse.