Poaching devastates oceanic critters

March 24, 2010 — by Denise Lin and Kim Tsai

For most people, the sea conjures up images of serenity. Cool waves, glistening dolphins and the harmony of marine life come to mind. The harsh reality, though, is that this peace has been tarnished by humankind. In Japan, dolphin poaching is prevalent, and in some bays the blood has dyed the water into a sickly blood red. It is also no secret that sharks are often captured, have their fins cut off, and are thrown, crippled and vulnerable, back into the waters. Despite such appalling occurences, little has been done.

A large amount of poaching often goes unnoticed because of how difficult it is to capture it in action. It is the ultimate hunter’s challenge to track down illegal poachers and even more difficult to get real statistics on how much poaching is going on. Poaching continues to be a hotly discussed topic, seeing as how the flow of illegal animal products has never truly been stopped.

Although sharks are considered dangerous and may not seem like the type of animal to be poached, they too are in danger. As a result of shark fin soup’s popularity in China, sharks are considered to be a delicacy and are widely sought after. Despite some chefs’ use of fake shark fin, many fishermen still catch sharks in their nets, saw off their dorsal fins and throw them back into the ocean just to make this signature soup. Even if the sharks do not suffocate from being out of the water, they die after being rendered handicapped, as they are unable to move effectively through the water without their dorsal fins.

In addition, Sashimi is one of the dominating elements of Japanese cuisine and threatens a number of fish species, namely, the Bluefin tuna, which could become extinct if there is no action to regulate the market. According to The New York Times, Japan is the consumer of 80 percent of bluefin tuna caught by fishermen. While eating bluefin tuna may be a part of the Japanese culture, what will they say when the bluefin is forever gone?

According to the Times, Monaco, the sponsor of the proposal of the bluefin ban, states that the bluefin has decreased around 75 percent since 1957. However, Japan has decided to opt out of a ban on the bluefin tuna proposed by the UN. Although it is highly unlikely that Japan will ever agree to quit consuming the prized bluefin altogether, moderation is a must if there is to be hope to recover this sadly declining species.

Whale meat, the most prized delicacy of all, is so treasured that a sushi restaurant at the Santa Monica Airport, The Hump, served whale meat from the sei whale to customers, even though it is illegal to sell whale meat in the United States. Two women went undercover to investigate, requesting a $600 sushi meal of the chef’s choice; they later confirmed suspicions regarding the sale of whale meat, as well as horse meat.

A lack of swift action on illegal and excessive whale hunting, as well as cooperation from the global community, would fuel the continuation of illegal hunting, and encourage behavior similar to that displayed at the sushi restaurant.

Regarding the poaching of animals prized for their fur, such as the polar bear, there is really no need to kill animals for such a relatively trivial purpose. In this day, “faux fur” is as accessible as ever, and besides, there is surely a kinder way to boast luxury than carrying around an animal carcass.

The most governments seem to have done so far is to create bans and restrictions on the hunting of these animals. These regulations may cut down on a small percentage of poaching, but as seen with elephants, rhinos and already protected animals, poachers continue to find ways around authority by hunting at night or hiding the game that they do catch.

Just as people working for the government strive to catch criminals, more police should be trained to catch these morally corrupt poachers. Not enough concern has been elicited for these endangered animals, which could cause a huge ripple effect on the welfare of the animal chain as a whole. Even the smallest tip of the natural scale can spin nature’s gifts into a wasteland. Poaching has been an issue for ages. More needs to be done to stop it.