Hunting the Shark

The statistics behind shark fishing.

Shark - AP - Archive
A shark that swam across the Indian Ocean twice. AP

Every year, 73 million sharks are killed worldwide for their meat. But in many cases, the sharks are hunted only in order to cut off their fins, an important ingredient in Asian soups. After the fins are removed, the shark is usually thrown back into the sea, already dead or bleeding to death. Many sharks die every year through unintentional damage caused by the fishing industry, including in Israel.

About one-third of the world’s shark species are in danger of extinction. That is why in California and Hawaii, a law was passed last year that forbids trading in any product whose source is sharks. In this way the two countries with the largest markets for shark meat outside of Asia have become the first in the world to protect sharks.

Sharks used to approach Israel’s coast every March. They swam in the area of the Hadera coast, near the power station, where the water is warm, and the females used to spawn their eggs there.

Many Israeli fishermen would go out during this season to hunt them en masse. Sharks are not a favorite with the Israeli public and there is almost no market for sharks here. But in Gaza there is great demand for them, and the fishermen would earn handsome sums for selling the catch to Arab merchants. In the end the shark population was eradicated, and today a visit by a shark to Israeli beaches is a random and infrequent occurrence.