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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) is leading an effort with support from fellow animal protection and conservation organizations to contact restaurants in the Washington Metropolitan Area that currently serve the highly controversial shark-fin soup, asking that they consider the precarious status of many of the targeted species and stop selling the dish immediately.
It is well known that this soup is enjoyed as a delicacy in Asia -- one bowl can go for as much as $100 -- but the extent of its sale in the United States is not publicized. "I was shocked to find out that so many local restaurants sell shark-fin soup," said AWI Research Assistant Serda Ozbenian. "I'm sure most Americans would be horrified to find out that their neighborhood Chinese restaurant supports such a brutal industry."
The latest estimates show that as many as 73 million sharks are killed yearly for the shark fin industry, and the animals' slow reproductive rates make them extremely vulnerable to extinction. The inhumane and wasteful methods used to acquire shark fins are just as disturbing. Because of weak laws and poor enforcement, millions of sharks are "finned" while still alive, and their helpless bodies are thrown back into the water, where they endure long, painful deaths from suffocation, blood loss or predation by other species.
President Bill Clinton signed the Shark-Finning Prohibition Act in 2000, in an effort to curb the practice. This legislation made it unlawful to possess a shark-fin in US waters without a corresponding carcass. Many other countries also implemented some restrictive measures on shark finning, but they have proven insufficient in stopping the practice.
"Fortunately, the combination of the cruelty of shark-finning and the perilous decline in shark populations, along with the related effects on the marine ecosystem as a whole, have deterred many consumers around the world from eating shark-fin products," Ozbenian said. "We hope that local restaurants serving shark-fin soup will also re-evaluate their decisions, for the sake of sharks and marine ecosystems."
A list of Washington, D.C.-area restaurants that sell shark-fin soup and a fact sheet on the practice of shark-finning are available from AWI. The organization will be extending its campaign to other cities around the country.
The Animal Welfare Institute has worked for over 50 years to reduce the unnecessary pain and suffering inflicted on animals by humans. Campaigns include saving whales from commercial slaughter, ending the use of brutal traps, developing alternatives for and improving the treatment of animals used for experimentation, and protecting endangered species. For more information, please visit http://www.awionline.org.