270,000 is the number — the estimated number of sharks killed daily for their fins. The practice of shark finning is brutal and wasteful, but the activity persists in a vacuum of globalized policy mandating otherwise.
This particular fact played into a stroll we took on an Alameda Beach recently. As the tide receded to unsual lows on Crown Beach, we noticed a series of amorphous objects, bobbing in the shallow waves. We approached and it was clear there was some carnage in the surf: discarded carcasses of skates, native to San Francisco Bay. They were torsos, all of them stripped of their wings — a gruesome sight and a disturbing reminder of our cultural unconsciousness.
To the best of my knowledge, this practice of “winging” skates and rays is not covered under the auspices of shark-finning legislation. Removing the wings of caught skates and rays is a common practice, owing to those wings being the commercially useful bits for cuisine. For the two of us, it’s difficult to contemplate this type of wasteful “harvest” — embodied in these vivid reminders, lying to rot in pieces on the shore.
Photographer Chris Jordan has a career devoted to the “slow motion apocalypse,” as he calls it, of human wastefulness. At his home page, click on Running the Numbers and scroll to the images of Tuna 2009 to see a graphic representation of the tuna numbers fished from the ocean each day.