放鲨鱼一条生路吧！ / Let's Finally Leave the Sharks Alone
有种说法是香港赤腊角机场（Chek Lap Kok airport）的建设破坏了传统的鲨鱼产卵区，此外全年无休的近海捕捞作业也迫使鲨鱼转而捕食两条腿的猎物。
Let's Finally Leave the Sharks Alone
It should come as no surprise that the world's shark population, which has been severely depleted by overfishing to supply demand for shark's fin soup, is unhappy about humans decimating their ranks to the point of near extinction of some species.
Experts estimate that humans are killing 30 to 70 million sharks per year through worldwide fishery efforts, much of it performed by the fishing fleets of Asian countries. In Hong Kong, the global capital of the shark fin trade, 10,000 tons of dried fins are imported each year.
Most of the shark fins are obtained through finning, an inhumane practice whereby the fin is cut off while the fish is on the deck of the fishing boat. The mutilated fish is then thrown back in the water to die slowly.
Although sharks have long been demonized in film and fiction, most famously by the "Jaws" series of movies, in reality most species of shark are harmless to man, and play a very important role in the ecological balance of the world's oceans.
The current level of shark fishing is depleting the shark population to unsustainable levels, while the knock-on effect of removing a key predator from the feed chain is causing other dislocations.
Perhaps as karmic payback from one apex predator (sharks) to another (mankind), 2010 saw fatal shark attacks worldwide reach a 20-year high. The initial conclusion would seem to be: a lot less sharks are in the sea, but more of them are big, hungry ones. But this turns out to be wrong.
The number of documented shark attacks worldwide -- 75 during 2010 -- was about equal to the ten-year average. The difference is that twice as many of these proved fatal in 2010.
The U.S. had the largest number of shark attacks, with 29, yet due to improved readiness and contingency plans, none of these proved fatal. It turns out that the rise in fatality rates had more to do with tourists venturing further afield in more remote parts of the world, to places lacking emergency medical care for shark attack victims.
The U.S. lead the world tables with 29 shark attacks, followed by Australia with 11, and South Africa with 5. It's logical that the top 3 have sea coasts where surfing is popular. Surfing accounted for 60% of attacks, followed by swimming at 35% and diving at 5%.
So far, sharks are mostly attacking people who don't eat them in soup.
That's an undeserved blessing for residents of Greater China, but let's not be complacent. In the mid-90s there was a very unusual spike in shark attacks at beaches in Hong Kong, which involved serious injuries and several fatalities to swimmers, and lasted for about 3 years.
An Australian shark expert was called in to investigate, but the effort proved inconclusive as to identifying which shark species were involved (speculation focused on great whites, tiger sharks and bull sharks), or the reasons behind the sudden spate of attacks.
One theory was that the construction of Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok airport had disrupted a traditional spawning area for sharks, while at the same time the severe depletion of the inshore fish population through perennial overfishing forced sharks to feed on two-legged prey instead.
Shark nets were installed at many Hong Kong beaches, but the mid-90s incidents remain something of a mystery to this day.
One thing is for sure: the solution to the depletion of the worldwide shark population depends on Chinese consumers stopping their consumption of shark's fin soup and shark cartilage pills.
I applaud the efforts of various hotel and restaurant groups to heighten awareness of this problem while taking shark's fin off their menus. Educators, editors, and policy-makers need to address the issue more proactively as well.
For those who find the ecological argument unconvincing, a recent study suggests a link between a neurotoxin found in shark's fins and degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's disease. Earlier studies also highlighted the risks of mercury poisoning.
For the sake of the sharks, the health of our seas and of our children, it's finally time to make a change.