Shocking Shark Fin Soup Study Airs on Shark Week

Sharks, like the Shortfin Mako shark, are apex predators and regulate the populations of marine life. Their absence poses significant risks for the health of entire ocean ecosystems. (Photo: Andy Murch/
While the Discovery Channel’s annual predator-extravaganza Shark Week decreases misconceptions of these demonized predators, the sensationalism and morbid fascination with shark attacks has often created the wrong kind of awareness.

Now celebrating its 25th year, Shark Week is changing its messaging and aiming to educate viewers on shark conservation.

Rachel Brittin, Communications Officer for Global Shark Conservation, agrees. “The first Shark Week was dramatic and bloody. Fast forward 25 years, Discovery has worked really hard to put a conservation tone on its programming.

Joining the Pew Environment Group, shark attack survivors (featured in “Shark Fight”)  lobbied for stricter environmental regulations against shark finning loopholes in the United States, and even took part in a covert operation to collect shark fin soup samples from major US cities for analysis. The results are shocking.

Endangered sharks found in shark fin soup in major cities

In an unprecedented scientific analysis conducted by Stony Brook University, the Field Museum in Chicago and with support from the Pew Environment Group, the study concluded that shark fin soup served in 14 U.S. cities contains at-risk species, including scalloped hammerhead, a species listed as endangered globally by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“The DNA testing again confirms that a wide variety of sharks are being killed for the fin trade, including seriously threatened species,” said Dr. Demian Chapman, who co-led the DNA testing at the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University in New York. “U.S. consumers of shark fin soup cannot be certain of what’s in their soup. They could be eating a species that is in serious trouble.”

Find out what sharks species were found in shark fin soup in 14 U.S. cities:

Read the full results of the shark fin soup study.

Protecting sharks to save our oceans

Recent legislation has increased protections for sharks. China’s Government Offices Administration of the State Council has agreed to stop serving shark fin soup at official banquets. And in the United States, Illinois is now the fourth state in the continental US, and the second largest, to ban the sale, trade, possession, and distribution of shark fins, joining Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, where similar legislation has been passed.

Thank you, Discovery Channel, for educating 3.3 million viewers on the importance of protecting our oceans’ most valued predator. “It’s like the shark Superbowl,” said Brittin. “The Discovery Channel creates the fascination and we can use it as a rallying point to get involved.”

Take action to protect endangered and threatened shark species from shark fin soup or adopt your own Great White Shark! “Shark Fight” premieres on the Discovery Channel on August 15.

If you’re in Silver Spring, MD, say hi to Chompie, the Discovery Communications Shark Week mascot. (Instagram: @marinebiologist)