Chef Gordon Ramsay, the backbiting Brit who spends most his days on his television show "Hell's Kitchen" ripping apart poorly trained sous-chefs, showed a more compassionate side recently, as he sought and gained access to a fishing vessel in Central America that was using longlines to capture sharks and lop off their fins.
Shark fins have become a multi-million dollar industry. They are good for soup and are considered traditional cures in East Asia for ailments as strong as cancer. Some estimate that 100 million sharks are killed per year for just their fins.
In this video (below), Ramsay observes as the shark fishermen reel them in, then cut through their bodies for the goods. The fins fetch as much as $300 a pound.
It is illegal in most countries, including Costa Rica, where this was filmed, to return to port with just the fins, and in this video, the fisherman keep the sharks on board. Normally they discard the carcass, which offers little profit and a lot of weight.
The fishermen eventually give Ramsay access to the hull, where he finds a large fin. He asks about the laws, and one of the fishermen says authorities will not stop them because they only have one fin.
In another video, Ramsay enters a fin-packing factory, where he finds hundreds of fins drying in the sun, presumably so they are easier to export to East Asia.
After he left the tanning factory, Ramsay said he was held at gunpoint and told Jay Leno that he was doused with gasoline before fleeing the country.
He was the first of two victims of shark fin traders that week. Another, an environmentalist, was attacked just days after Ramsay.
While not addressing the question of the shark fin trade directly, Panama this week became the first country in Central America to prohibit the use of longlines, which greatly facilitates the capture of the sharks and other marine animals.