About this project
My Kickstarter Project
I will write a comprehensive journal article that unravels the shark finning problem, especially the market forces and cultural nuances fueling a still growing trade in China. After fully describing the problem, I will offer insight into creative solutions that can disrupt and hopefully turn a pressing conservation challenge into a conservation opportunity. I am uniquely qualified as a marine and endangered species biologist. I also have connections with people who have an intimate knowledge of shark finning in Hong Kong. Their knowledge and more importantly, their understanding of the cultural importance of shark finning in China are both critically important to finding possible solutions to end the shark fin trade.
I plan on utilizing my connections in Hong Kong to explore the market forces and cultural connections around this trade. Only by uncovering how the trade works and why it is growing in the face of international opposition can I offer ideas on what can be done to fight back. I will use a Kickstarter-funded trip to Hong Kong to complete my research about shark finning and publish a journal article in a mainstream journal. I am uniquely qualified with over 15 years experience as a marine biologist to write this shark finning story. I have tremendous people skills as well that I will utilize to counter the risks to getting the information needed to complete my story.
Shark finning is the inhumane practice of fishing for sharks by capturing them, removing their fins, and then usually discarding the still-live sharks back into the water to slowly bleed to death. Fishermen cast overboard all but the fins because the fins themselves can fetch upwards of $300 USD per pound. Shark finning wastes all but the fins of the sharks and is a cruel and ecologically destructive means of fishing. Sharks worldwide are slow to reproduce and usually have very few young every few few years. There are over 450 species of sharks worldwide. However, finning targets a couple of dozen species, many of which are currently on worldwide threatened and endangered species lists.
Sad ironies abound in the shark fin trade. Most shark fins are consumed in China in traditional shark fin soup served at weddings. Fins are also used in some traditional medicines. However, there is no evidence of shark fins conferring on consumers either virility or medicinal benefits. In fact, there is growing evidence that consuming shark fins can actually lead to impotency since shark fins have very high levels of mercury and other toxic compounds.
Hong Kong is the major gateway for shark fins sold throughout mainland China and if fins are not trafficked through Hong Kong, then they likely move through Taipei, Taiwan. Outside of Asia there is a growing disdain for the wasteful and inhumane practice of finning. And more recently a strong anti-finning movement has erupted in pockets of Asia. However, policy changes are slow to follow the anti-finning movement and it is estimated that shark finning may wipe out 90 percent of oceanic shark species in the coming few years if drastic changes are not made.
A rapidly growing emergent middle class in mainland China poses the greatest threat to sharks because this middle class consumes most shark fins. The main bulwark to this supply and demand chain is the education and outreach of dozens of shark advocacy groups worldwide. Bans on shark fin soup throughout the U.S., Canada, and in many parts of Asia are dampening some consumption but cannot keep pace with the shear numbers of emergent middle class Chinese consumers. Westerners may find the shark fin soup cultural phenom as unfathomable as most Chinese find incomprehensible the American idea that evermore guns will make us safer. Both the idea that shark fin soup increases one's virility and that more guns makes a society safer are contrary to statistics that show otherwise. The finning problem is complex. It is cultural, economic/political, and ecological. However, without sharks in our oceans, we know our ocean ecosystems will falter. The truth is that we need sharks in our oceans just as their presence enriches humanity and their absence would leave an indelible void.
Please help me research shark finning and write a turn-around article for shark conservation. Thank you in advance for your support!
Risks and challenges
I am well qualified to research and explain the ecological side of shark finning. Understanding the cultural mores driving the shark fin market requires more adept research and the ability to look beyond one's own stereotypes. This presents the biggest challenge I feel to a westerner writing about traditional Chinese wedding soup, for instance. I believe the people in Hong Kong who have offered to help me will guide me around these cultural challenges to fairly and accurately describe the shark finning problem.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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