Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Department

Environment, Economics and Politics

Reader 1

Emil Morhardt

Reader 2

Latika Chaudhary

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2014 Katie Huang

Abstract

Despite being one of the most recognizable sea creatures in the world, sharks remain widely misunderstood by the public. Media coverage often sensationalizes them as dangerous creatures, when in reality, humans pose a much more significant threat to sharks than vice versa. Over the past few decades, overfishing has decimated populations worldwide as demand increases for byproducts such as meat, cartilage, and fins in particular, a crucial ingredient in the Chinese delicacy of shark fin soup. Finning, a particularly inefficient practice that promotes overfishing and waste, occurs when fishers cut off fins at sea and throw carcasses overboard. As sharks play an important role in marine ecosystems as apex predators and are slow to reproduce, increased attention to shark conservation is urgently needed. Although there have been attempts by international organizations such as the United Nations and by individual countries, current legislation has proven to be inadequate in combating shark exploitation. Though public awareness is on the rise thanks to increased media coverage and environmental advocacy, sharks still need greater protection in the face of overharvest and stock depletion. This thesis details the current state of shark exploitation, including shark biology, public perceptions of sharks, and current levels of shark finning, as well as the economics behind the trade. It also analyzes previous actions taken both at the international and national levels. Finally, it recommends further actions to be undertaken in order to preserve declining shark populations and keep them from extinction.

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