One of the largest threats that sharks face in the 21st century is finning. Finning is the inhumane practice of hacking off the shark's fins and throwing its still living body back into the sea. The sharks will either bleed to death or drown. Shark fins are in high demand due to the popularity of the Asian delicacy, shark fin soup. Estimates of sharks killed (mostly for their fins) range from 63 to 273 million per year.
Not only is the finning of sharks barbaric, but their indiscriminate slaughter at an unsustainable rate is pushing many species to the brink of extinction. Due to the clandestine nature of finning, records are rarely kept of the numbers of sharks and species caught.
Shark Fin Soup
Shark fin soup is a soup or broth of Chinese origin made with shark fin and flavoured with chicken or some other stock. The fin itself has little to no flavour and is used primarily to add texture to the dish. It is often served to guests at important events such as weddings and business banquets. Shark fin soup is not cheap, it can easily cost over $100 per bowl. This fact has helped ensure a steady supply of fins as fishermen and middlemen slaughter sharks wherever they can find them in order to satisfy the market. With the sudden increase in prosperity in the Far East, shark fin soup is being consumed in vast quantities, placing an unsustainable and crippling demand on shark populations. The soup is often claimed to have health benefits, such as improving your kidneys, lungs and bones. However there is no evidence to support these claims and the reality is that shark meat is barely fit for human consumption. It has a very high level of mercury as do many other top level predatory fish including tuna, dolphinfish, swordfish and many more.
Consumption of sharks linked with infertility
There is no accepted scientific evidence that shark fin provides any medicinal or health benefit. A long believed myth that eating shark fin will increase a man’s fertility couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, studies have shown that sharks have some of the highest levels of toxic mercury found in any fish and mercury has been directly linked with neurological disorders, autism, infertility, Coronary heart disease and even death.
What is mercury?
Mercury is a heavy metal element that occurs naturally in the environment. Mercury is also created and released into the air through industrial pollution. From the air, mercury can enter the water in streams and oceans and be converted to methyl-mercury. As fish feed in the contaminated waters, the levels of methyl-mercury build up in their muscles. As a general rule, the bigger or older the fish, the more the mercury will have built up in them. Some fish, like sharks and swordfish, accumulate much higher levels of mercury than others.
Why should I be worried about mercury?
Methyl-mercury is the form of mercury that can potentially be harmful to women attempting pregnancy, unborn babies and small children. If a person regularly eats types of fish that are high in methyl-mercury (like Sharks), it can accumulate in their blood over time. Babies and small children are more sensitive to the effects of mercury and are therefore at potentially greater risk. As it takes the body many years to get rid of mercury, women may have high levels even before they attempt pregnancy.
Mercury levels in seafood and fertility
contamination has been found in many different types of seafood from
sharks to oysters, but sharks are amongst the
Women consuming shark while pregnant increase their risk of giving
birth to babies with birth defects and neurologic impairment.
Studies have demonstrated that mercury consumption may be directly
Coronary heart disease and even
One study found that a group of infertile men and women had higher blood levels of mercury than a similar group of men and women with normal fertility. Men who had an abnormal semen analysis and women with otherwise unexplained infertility also had higher levels. The higher levels corresponded to increased consumption of seafood.
It is, therefore, advisable that if you are attempting to conceive you should reduce your consumption of mercury contaminated seafood. Below are recommendations by the U.S. FDA for selecting and eating fish.
DO NOT EAT: Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel or Tilefish as they contain the highest known levels of mercury.
Eat no more than 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.