Sharks of the Philippines and Shark Fins in Asia

In May and June of 2011 I accompanied the 2011 California Academy of Sciences Philippines Biodiversity Expedition as videographer and scientist, exploring, explaining and protecting the natural world.  In over 1000 dives our team observed only two sharks. These whitetip reef sharks generally frequent a local reef and were protected by a dive resort.  If these sharks leave the region of the resort, they are fair game to poachers who sell shark fins for shark fin soup.  We were told by fishermen and divers that most of the fins go to China. Just a decade ago Dr. John McCosker  and other researchers describe these same waters barren of sharks to have been "Sharky."  Waters once filled with sharks are being fished out.

We visited the Manila fish market with Dr. John McCosker and did not see any shark meat for sale. When asked, the vendors stated they used to sell sharks but the sharks are all gone from the shark fin trade. Sadly, we did observe large rays for sale. Increasingly, shark fins are being replaced by the fins of rays like Manta Rays, Eagle Rays and Spotted Rays.  This fishing down and out of the food chain is creating serious harm to the balance of our ocean.

The other side of the story is killing an animal for a small body part is wasteful, and cruel if the animal is alive.  The elephant ivory trade and rhino horn are perfect examples of a brutality that is unconscionable. In the South Pacific I observed the killing of sharks for their fins, longlines filled with dead and living sharks in Costa Rica, and drying shark fins lining the rails of ships which were unloading tuna.  Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States explains the cruelty and why we should care about the well being of sharks, and respect ocean life.

This is one of the reasons Sea Stewards is supporting a ban on the shark fin trade in California and throughout the world. This unsustainable dish is one of the symptoms of an unhealthy ocean, but one which we can reverse.  There are healthy alternatives to shark fin soup, just as there are for Salmon, Beluga Caviar and other exotic dishes or dishes made from threatened species.


We can make a difference for the health of the oceans, starting with sharks and sustainable practices.  Act now, before the ocean is empty and future humanity suffers the loss.

Please support the work of the Humane Society, Sea Stewards and other ocean advocates.




Videography by David McGuire