About 100 million sharks are killed each year, mostly for their fins.
"As the ocean waves wash up onto America's beaches, we find ourselves thinking, nervously, about Steven Spielberg's movie "Jaws" and the paralyzing fear that sharks inspire in us. Yet, paradoxically, we celebrate global attempts to protect the declining number of sharks. The world is figuring out we need these species, along with all creatures of the Earth, to maintain a delicately balanced ecosystem.
Sharks, in particular, are "in" these days. Thanks to good public policy and the power of public education and multimedia campaigns featuring stars such as Yao Ming, Jackie Chan and Ang Lee, killing sharks for shark fin soup is no longer "cool".
Hong Kong, one of the world's biggest markets for shark fins.
The demand has been rising for decades, threatening sharks with extinction - up to 100 million plus sharks are killed each year just for their fins, but we have started to reverse the trend, particularly in affluent areas of the U.S. and overseas where restaurants once proudly displayed shark fin delicacies on the menu.
In California, and other states, a ban on the sale and possession of shark fin soup has gone into effect this year after aggressive marketing campaigns by WildAid and other conservation organizations.
Overseas, marketing and public diplomacy efforts featuring posters on public transportation systems and TV ads have been underway for the past few years. These efforts all show signs of success, on both the supply side and the demand side of trade in shark fins. Hong Kong"s Census and Statistics Department tracked 3,100 metric tons of shark fin being imported from the island to China last year, but this year"s numbers are way down.
Stopping the killing of sharks is part of a broader movement to stop the killing of wild animals and the trafficking of wildlife products around the world - products that come from poaching marine life.
Whether it is shark fin soup or ivory piano keys, killing animals is big business. Together with international partners, conservation groups, nonprofits and businesses, the United States is leading the worldwide effort to reduce demand for high-end jewelry, herbal medicines, skins, foods and other products that rely on killing marine life. Working with governments through existing protocols and conventions, the U.S. is convening stakeholders to pressure those who provide sanctuary for the poachers ,or allow parts and goods to make their way out of countries to any markets.
Public diplomacy and public education, together with sound policy, give us a model for success. Using Facebook, Twitter, public service advertisements, the media, celebrity interviews, videos and classroom teaching, we can marshal the forces to convince consumers that buying products that come from slaughtered harpooned sharks is simply wrong and dangerous. And we can track the results of wildlife trafficking and punish the offenders.
This is one of those rare international tales of where the public and private sector, along with Hollywood, can create a very different kind of movie now."