Finning is the process whereby the fins of the shark are cut off and the rest of the animal is discarded, most often while the animal is still alive. The shark sinks to the bottom and dies a slow and agonizing death by either bleeding out, being eaten by other fish or slowly suffocating.

Sharks cannot swim or float without fins and most species cannot breathe while stationary. Fins will not grow back.

Finning is an utterly cruel and wasteful practice, and it has been banned in most countries in recent years. But from a fisheries management point of view there are issues when prohibiting ONLY the “practice of Finning”, as that technically only stops the dumping of sharks while at sea. As long as one claims that the intention is to use the whole shark, they can be “landed whole” and then processed. Prohibition of “finning” unfortunately has proven to be ineffective in slowing the trade of fins.

The major driver of shark finning is the high demand for shark fin soup.

 A cut off fin from a shark


Shark fin soup has been considered a symbol of wealth and a delicacy in China since the Ming Dynasty. It was a dish that only the Emperor and his guests would be served. Eventually wealthy families and business people in Hong Kong and other cities with Chinese populations would also serve it. It was not affordable to the average Chinese. 

The popularity rose about 20 years ago when the Chinese middle class grew rapidly and with it the demand for luxury items. The soup has become a standard dish served to impress guests at banquets, business dinners and weddings. The demand is also expanding into other Asian countries and cities around the world that have larger Chinese communities.

The result is that now millions of people want shark fin soup and that shark populations are being decimated in every corner of the globe to meet the demand. And there is no shortage in eager suppliers as every country with a commercial fishing fleet is chasing the money made from shark fins.

More than 145 Nations participate in the trade of shark products.

Fins can bring in hundreds of dollars on the market, with the average being about $450 per pound. A bowl of soup can cost up to $100. 

The top consumers of shark fin soup are China, Malaysia and Thailand.

 A bowl of shark fin soup
 Shark fins drying on a rack


One of the main reasons why sharks are caught by the millions every year is that the trade in shark fins is such a profitable business. 

The demand for shark fin soup is the core problem. But the issue is made more complex by the fact that there are more countries than ever that engage in the shark fin trade. 

Sharks are also increasingly targeted for their meat. However, in many cases, a fishery that goes after shark meat is only profitable when gaining a high price for fins – the meat is the secondary, low priced product. As more countries pass laws that prohibit the finning of sharks and require sharks to be “landed whole”, traders and fisheries departments are not reacting by reducing the catch of sharks, but by finding and creating new markets for shark meat and other shark products. 

This is one of the main reasons why a trade and sale prohibition of fins is so crucial in the implementation of shark conservation measures. Requiring sharks to be landed whole only makes getting fins a bit more inconvenient. But the incentive of getting and selling fins is still there.


Estimates say that of the 100 million sharks are killed every year, 73 million of them killed for fin soup.
this is one major reason why SHARK POPULATIONS