"PARIS -- Delegates to a United Nations conference on endangered species voted down three of four proposals to protect sharks on Tuesday, landing another victory for Japan, China and countries opposed to the involvement of international authorities in regulation of ocean fish." -- David Jolly, NYTimes.
Like many predators, sharks have historically suffered from an undeserved reputation as blood-thirsty monsters. In fact, most sharks are merely curious about humans -- attacks are usually provoked by the presence of blood in the water, or by humans unintentionally behaving in the manner of an injured prey species. As in all environments, it is common sense to educate oneself about the natural residents, both prey and predator species. They were here first.
In recent decades, numerous species of sharks have been pushed to the brink of extinction, both by so-called "sport" fishing, and by hunting sharks for their fins. The latter is uniquely cruel -- once the fins are hacked off, the living shark is tossed back into the ocean, no longer able to steer or direct its motion through the water, ultimately to die from loss of blood or from predation.
In this viewer's eyes, ALL endangered species deserve protection, regardless of the ridiculous myths attached to them, and above all top predators -- for without them, the entire food web is thrown into disarray, and ecosystems are placed in jeopardy. Beyond the practical consideration of preserving the planet which supports human life, there is this ethos: that all life forms deserve the chance to live their lives, for their own sake. We lack sufficient knowledge and understanding of the interdependence of creatures, from microbes to eagles, to carelessly, even brutally assume the role of arbiter over who lives and who dies. As for our grasp of ethics .... the UN vote speaks for itself.
Please read the entire NYTimes article here for a more complete view of the shark vote, and the national and economic players involved.