Shark Free Products Overview
Simply put, we cannot address the overfishing of sharks and the fin trade without also including the many other products sharks are fished for: meat for humans and pets, liver oil (squalene) for pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, teeth for decoration, skin for leather goods, the list goes on. The taking of 1 product, fuels the remaining industries, especially regarding fins, meat and livers.
Let’s dive into the shark meat industry, purely as an example that can be paralleled to many other markets. While the shark fin trade is still the biggest offender when it comes to shark mortality, the markets for shark meat are also of great concern. In areas where overfishing has decimated other fish populations, sharks are increasingly hunted for their meat. Oftentimes the meat by itself would not be worth enough to make shark fishing profitable if the fins weren't also sold. And here is a further twisted part of the story of shark meat. When lawmakers tried to prevent the cruel act of finning by establishing laws to require fishermen to “land sharks whole”, to avoid shark being dumped at sea, the intention was to reduce shark catch and waste of sharks for the fin market. But rather than fixing the problem, the people targeting sharks for their fins simply adjusted their practices. Since they still wanted to sell fins, they brought the sharks intact to shore and processed them on land. In order to make it worth their while, there was a push to develop a greater demand for shark meat and other products. This is a good example of the supply pushing the demand and is probably one of the driving factors that have caused an increase in shark products being sold.
This is devastating when added to the additional insult of 100 million sharks taken for fins and other products. One could argue that the same sharks are taken for all products, but that isn't enough of a reason to continue or accept it. Excusing it away by saying is just another product we keep getting stuck in a circular argument. We allow fin sales because sharks get killed for meat anyways, we allow squalene sales because sharks get killed for fins anyways, and we support shark meat sales, because when they can also sell fins and the oil, it makes for a viable industry that otherwise wouldn't be.
Shark Allies has been working hard over the last decade to curb the demand of these products, whether through policy, publicity, consumer redirection or education. They are focused mostly on the use of squalene (liver oil) in cosmetics/vaccines and shark meat in pet food, but as you can tell from the information above, we cannot address these industries without also taking into consideration fins, teeth, jaws and skin.
Shark Free/Shark Safe Program
The Shark Free Products campaign is in a completely different structure than what Shark Allies is used to with shark fin trade bans. When the team sets out to pass shark fin trade legislation, they have one goal in mind, and there is usually an end date. All of that of course ebbs and flows with those involved in the legislature. The leading cause of shark population decline is due to the fin trade, claiming 100 million sharks per year, making the entire shark products industry (fins, meat, livers, teeth, jaws, skin) extremely profitable, $1 Billion per year.
As you know well by now, there are countless products that sharks are used for, including decoration like jaws or jewelry. But just because you want to wear a shark tooth necklace, doesn’t necessarily mean it is promoting the overfishing of sharks. How can you tell? Typically the color of the shark tooth is the giveaway, fossils have a dark or colorful pigment, whereas new teeth are white or ivory. Most sharks have 5 rows of teeth, and can have as many as 3,000 teeth at once, all while losing up to 100 per day. So if you’re a diver and find a white tooth on the ocean floor, that’s one story. If you’re in the souvenir store next the dive shop looking at a white tooth necklace, that’s a whole other story. Keep in mind that many summer town souvenir shops sell fresh shark teeth, be on the lookout! Talk to the owners, educate them on what they are promoting and help them change. A good rule of thumb is, when in doubt, avoid white teeth! There has been a recent trend of ceramic shark teeth, to give the look of a white tooth, but still look out for the sharks. And when in doubt here, ask the brand. The brands that are environmentally conscious will have no issue speaking with you about their sourcing. Because a shark fossil necklaces or candles aren’t technically “shark free,” we have come up with an additional “shark safe” seal for these shark-loving brands! Shark Allies is proud to have Maya Bleu as their very first Shark Safe brand. Together, we hope to raise awareness for shark products and the important roles sharks play on our planet, keeping a healthy ocean for all.
Shark Allies – www.sharkallies.com
Shark Allies is an organization, dedicated to the protection and conservation of sharks and rays. At their core, is a focus is on taking action, raising awareness and guiding initiatives that reduce the destructive practice of overfishing on a global scale. Shark Allies is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization originally established in 2007 in Hawaii and incorporated in California in 2014.
If you’re a fan of Maya Bleu, chances are you love sharks and are aware of the devastation their species is facing today, as well as their immeasurable importance to the health of the ocean. 73-100 million sharks are taken every year for their fins alone, a shockingly conservative estimate. More on this, as well as the other threats sharks are up against, in a bit.
If we’re measuring impact, it is on the policy front where Shark Allies has done the most meaningful work. It started with the 2010 landmark bill in the State of Hawaii, where founder, Stefanie Brendl worked directly with Hawaii State Senator Clayton Hee to create a ban on the sale, trade and possession of shark fins. A historic effort that became the model for many other State (and federal) fin bans that followed (as well as ivory and rhino horn trade policy). After the successful passage of the Hawaii bill, Shark Allies, in collaboration with many other great individuals and organizations, worked all over the US and the Pacific to champion a wave of legislation to stop the trade of fins and to create shark sanctuaries. The Hawaii bill kicked into motion a wave that has now resulted in 14 US States, 3 territories and many Pacific Nations to pass fin trade bans, and several states are in the process of shaping legislation. The work continues on this track through their Stop the Fin Trade campaign, with the most recent victory concentrated on ending the trade of shark fins in Florida, Maya Bleu’s home.