Each year, an estimated 70 million sharks are killed for their fins. The brutal shark finning process involves cutting off a live shark's fins and returning the debilitated animal back into the water to die a slow death.
Highly valued in traditional Asian medicine and cuisine, the fins can sell for as much as $300 a pound on the black market.
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What if an artificial shark fin could remove sharks from the equation completely?
New Wave Foods, a San Francisco-based sustainable seafood company, is developing a bioengineered fin product that could pull the rug out from underneath the shark trade.
A combination of algae-derived ingredients and recombinant proteins, the faux shark fin could meet the demand for a highly valued product without exploiting the apex predators from an ecosystem on the brink of collapse.
"Through technology, we are creating seafood that doesn't have to be harvested from this highly vulnerable ecosystem and that is created entirely in our food laboratories. We get inspired by mother nature and recreate what people have been eating for centuries, in a better and more sustainable way," New Wave spokesperson Florian Radke tells Discovery via email.
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The company is also developing a sustainable shrimp product using similar plant-based ingredients. Poorly managed shrimp fisheries can be detrimental to marine ecosystems; shrimp trawling operations often net high levels of non-target species.
Much of that bycatch isn't removed from the trawling net until it's too late, and millions of pounds of dead or dying marine animals are simply thrown back into the ocean.
"Over the past few decades, global production of shrimp has more than tripled, and it's estimated we now eat more than 6 million tons of them each year," Radke adds.
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"The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that for every 1,000 people who stop eating shrimp, we can save more than 5.4 tons of sea life per year."
The shrimp product will be available early next year; a release date has not yet been announced for the shark fin product.
This article originally appeared on DSCOVRD; all rights reserved.