[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/04/art.ling.pip2.jpg caption=""Shark fins unloaded at a port in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Because shark meat is worth much less, sharks are finned and thrown back into the sea... often still alive."]
Editor’s note: CNN’s award-winning Planet in Peril returns this year to examine the conflict between growing populations and natural resources. Anderson Cooper, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Lisa Ling travel to the front lines of this worldwide battle. Ling has been a co-host of The View, correspondent for The Oprah Winfrey Show, National Geographic and Channel One. She filed this blog from Taiwan on how shark-finning operations that have helped deplete the oceans of more than 90 percent of shark species.
AC360° Special Correspondent
This experience has been quite an education for me. I, frankly, have been terrified of sharks all of my life. That's because pop culture and sensational news reporting have perpetuated the notion that sharks are the fiercest attackers of humans in the animal world. I was surprised to learn that this is to the contrary. Worldwide sharks kill an average of 10 people every year. According to WildAid, humans kill up to 70 million sharks over the course of a given year. Who's the bigger killer?
Because of films like "Jaws," humans have been conditioned to fear sharks. They are considered to be the most maligned animals in the world. Sharks predate dinosaurs and have roamed the oceans for 400 million years.
They are the ocean's top predator and essential for the ocean's ecosystem.
We spent the morning at Taiwan's largest port in Kaoshiung yesterday. A fishing boat that had been at sea for more than a year came in to unload. We watched them take out what seemed to be hundreds of sharks and thousands of fins.
Often shark bodies are thrown overboard because they take up valuable boat space and have little value. It's the fins that are the prize. Of a sharks about 8 fins, only 4-6 of them kept. That means that an entire shark is often killed for 4 or 6 fins.
In Taiwan, shark finning is not illegal but because of the attention is getting, people are very sensitive about talking about it. At the Kaoshiung Port, our cameraman was pushed around and we were repeatedly told not to shoot the fins.
The market for shark fin soup has exploded in recent years. It has such a high value, that mafias have allegedly sprung up to get in on the action.
With China enormous population and it's booming economy, more and more people are wanting to consume shark fin products as a symbol of wealth. China's middle class alone is a population the size of the U.S. The size of this new consumer is having a devastating impact on the world's sharks and thus, on OUR oceans.
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