SeaWorld has teamed up with conservationist and artist Guy Harvey to tag Mako sharks and educate guests about the dangerous practice of shark finning as part of their conservation efforts to protect the species.
Approximately 100 million sharks are killed around the world each year, and one of the major incentives is their fins, which are used to make the Chinese delicacy shark fin soup. Sharks’ slow growth and low reproductive rates, make them highly susceptible to extinction. Many species are in danger due to shark finning, including the endangered scalloped hammerhead and the smooth hammerhead, which is vulnerable according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Last April, members of SeaWorld’s animal care team joined the Guy Harvey Research Institute on a shark-tagging expedition off the coast of Mexico. The mako sharks are being followed by students and researchers at the institute at Nova Southeastern University’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography.
SeaWorld’s roller coaster, Mako, is being used as an education platform. Guests are educated about the science of sharks in the wild as they wait in line for the ride. Interactive materials share information about shark conservation and ways to get involved.
Shark fins soup, which can cost up to $100 a bowl, is a symbol of status in Chinese culture. Chinese emperors served the soup to honored guests because it was thought to have health benefits and represented a victory against powerful sharks. The popularity of the dish has expanded with China’s growing population.
Some fishermen practice shark finning instead of bringing whole sharks to market because the fins are more valuable than the rest of the body. The fins sell for as much as $500 a pound. Fishermen often keep just the shark fins, about 1-5 percent of a shark’s weight, and throw the rest of the shark away rather than have the less valuable parts take up space on the boat. The finned sharks are often thrown back into the ocean alive, where they are unable to swim and die of suffocation or blood loss.
And even though shark finning is illegal, many U.S. states have no rules against the trade of shark fins, allowing them to be imported and exported within the country.
“Through joint research projects, we’ll increase scientific understanding of the issues facing these incredible fish and their habitats,” according to a statement from SeaWorld. “Through our vast consumer platforms, we’ll encourage our guests and fans to take action and join us in helping clean our oceans and ensure sharks are with us for generations to come.”