Friday, 10 August 2012

Survey finds endangered species in shark-fin soup

Imagine a bowl of steaming soup with succulent morsels severed from the tail of a cruelly slaughtered manatee.
It sounds awful but isn't far-fetched. Sharks are served in restaurants around the world in fin soup, even though about one-third of the 450 species are threatened with extinction. And there's no way for diners to know the type of shark they are consuming.
To find that out, shark-attack survivors associated with the Pew Environment Group, working with the Discovery Channel and researchers from Stony Brook University in New York, collected samples from restaurants nationwide as part of the largest survey of its kind.
Results of DNA analysis released Wednesday confirmed the researchers' fears: Many of the sharks detected in the soup samples are in trouble in the wild and, even if they get beefed-up protections soon, some may not recover for years, if ever, because they reproduce so slowly.
"Sharks aren't like other fish," said Jill Hepp, director of Pew's Global Shark Conservation campaign. "They can go years between reproducing. When they do reproduce, they have just two or three pups."
The samples were gathered by the shark-attack survivors, who, despite scars and in some cases missing limbs, have become activists for shark conservation.
Debbie Salamone, a Pew spokeswoman focused on shark protection worldwide and fish conservation in the Southeastern U.S., organized the collecting of soup samples from restaurants in 14 U.S. cities, including Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.
Salamone, whose Achilles tendon was severed nearly a decade ago by a shark at a Florida beach, found it difficult to identify which restaurants serve fin soup, perhaps because of growing public concern about the main ingredient.

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