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Not Finny

The whale shark is the largest fish in the world. It's a gentle giant in a deep sea of trouble. Whale shark population numbers are sinking. One reason is shark fin soup. The United States, as well as other countries, has tried to help protect these creatures.

Expensive Soup

People in Asia have been catching large numbers of whale sharks and other kinds of sharks for a long time. They catch the sharks for their valuable fins. A large whale shark fin can sell for as much as $10,000 in China!

Shark fins are used to make an expensive soup called shark fin soup. Shark fin soup is a delicacy, or rare treat, in China and some other countries in Asia.

Quite often, people catch a shark, cut off its fin, and toss the rest of the shark overboard. The shark then slowly dies. This process is called finning.

Some experts estimate that 100,000 sharks are caught for their fins each year. In all, 7,000 tons of shark fins are sold in Asia each year. The fins are taken from sharks from all over the world.

Banning Finning

Some countries in Europe and North America have outlawed finning. Many nations took a stand against finning in the early 1990s. “If global protection for sharks is not [put into practice] soon, the damage to these species [will not be fixable],” said one shark expert.

The United States has outlawed finning. Spain was the first country in Europe to ban the practice. Most of the other countries in Europe are now also thinking about bans on finning.

The U.S. ban on finning seems to be off to a good start. Not long after the ban was put in place in 2000, the U.S. Coast Guard caught a ship that was carrying 12 tons of shark fins. They found the ship in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. The challenge is finding more of these vessels in the vast ocean.