Most of the environmental news over the past few weeks has been incredibly disheartening. According to the United Nations, time is running out to stop global warming, marine life is still being severely affected by the residual effects from the Gulf oil spill, and recent readings have shown that carbon dioxide levels are at their highest in 800,000 years. Oh, and if your wondering why they are having so much difficulty finding the MH 370 plane in the Indian Ocean, it’s because they are full of trash.
However, entangled in all of this bad news, there has actually been some good things going on. China plans to close more than 1000 of its coal mines in an effort to get coal use down to only 65 percent of Chinese energy production. Also, the United States has cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 4.4 percent through the use of wind power. All of these things are significant, however I have yet to even mention the two huge developments that have come out in recent days. The first involves the Japanese and their whaling policies. The other has to do with China, and their over consumption of shark fin soup.
A few weeks ago, the International Court of Justice ruled that Japanese whaling was illegal. This decision was made because the ICJ decided that Japanese whaling expeditions were for the commercial sale of whale meat, and not for research as the government claimed. This decision was met by much skepticism, as many people did not think the Japanese would follow the ruling. However, they did. A few days ago, the Japanese called back their Antarctic whaling fleet and cancelled their whale hunt for the first in 25 years. Part of this stems from the ruling by the International Court of Justice, however a major source of this decision came from the declining taste in whale meat by the Japanese market.
This is a huge environmental win for a variety of reasons. Even though Japanese whaling operations are not a huge environmental threat (much less of a threat than the cast of Whale Wars would like you to think), Japan ending the whale hunt opens the door for other mass animal hunts to be ended. Locally, it also may help to end the dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan. (If you do not know about this, I recommend watching The Cove. It provides interesting insight to a serious issue most people do not know about.) Another hunt with much more serious environmental concerns is the hunting of sharks.
However, there is good news for people fighting to protect sharks. Sharks are in serious danger due to the Chinese desire for shark fin soup. When sharks are hunted for shark fin soup, they are caught, their fins are ripped off, and they are thrown back in the ocean to die. This is a huge waste of resources, all for an ingredient that does not even add flavor to the soup! It only changes the texture of the soup. The other ingredients are responsible for the taste. And the Chinese only like eating it because they believe it is a sign of wealth. In recent years, the Chinese government has taken steps to prevent the trade of shark fins (surprisingly, they aren’t the most environmentally inclined), to help protect sharks and the environment as a whole. These actions have helped drop the imports of shark fins from Hong Kong to China by 95 percent. That is huge. Granted, a lot of this drop has been covered by the black market trade of shark fins from Vietnam, however it is steps in the right direction.
Many people do not care about this because they do not like sharks because they believe they are dangerous and they could hurt them. However, this is not the case. Sharks rarely attack humans. But because one or two attacks happen each year, people enjoy the slaughter of sharks. This is a terrible attitude to have though. Just look at the graphic below, we kill an absurd number of sharks each year, and no one bats an eye.Sharks are a keystone species in almost every ecosystem they are a part of. Without a keystone species, an ecosystem will fall apart and eventually will collapse completely. That means most of the oceans ecosystems will be devastated which will cripple the world. I do not think anything will ever be done to stop the Chinese before it is too late, but I hope that sooner or later this catches on and the Chinese stop. The ocean is ours to protect, not to destroy.