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Why a dead shark on the New York subway isn't funny
Okay, it is a little bit. But there's a reason so many are endangered.

The internet got a kick out of a dead shark found on the New York City subway, especially when a rider gave it the Weekend at Bernie's treatment with a cigarette, Red Bull, and a MetroCard.

Gothamist theorized it could have been a marketing ploy for Discovery Channel's Shark Week or, more likely, a discarded animal from someone selling dogfish sharks illegally on the subway.

Later, Discovery emailed a statement to BuzzFeed to distance itself from the shark's appearance:

Shark Week is all about conservation, so it deeply saddens us that someone would think that this was funny or in any way connected to our celebration of sharks. [BuzzFeed]

This isn't even the first bizarre dead-shark sighting this month. Earlier, a 5-foot, 150-pound shark was found lying in front of the Sea Dog Brew Pub in Nantucket, Mass., about 300 yards from the water.

“In summertime, someone can get one too many beers in them and think that’s amusing,” John Braginton-Smith, a foreman for the Nantucket Department of Public Works, told The Boston Globe.

While it might be slightly humorous to see a shark riding around the subway with a cigarette in its fin, the truth is dead sharks are no laughing matter.

Around 100 million sharks are killed by humans every year, according to a study published in Marine Policy, which comes out to about 11,417 sharks killed every hour. Between 6.4 to 7.9 percent of the total shark population is wiped out each year.

Of all the shark species surveyed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 30 percent of them are threatened or near-threatened with extinction.

One of the biggest culprits is shark-finning, a process in which fishermen cut off the shark's fin, and throw the less valuable body back in the ocean. The fins are used in soup, which can sell for as much as $100 a bowl.

In Hong Kong, home to 50 percent of the market, 22.7 million pounds of shark fin were imported from 83 different countries in 2011. Note that the fin only makes up about 3 to 5 percent of a shark's total mass — meaning those 22.7 million pounds represent a lot of dead sharks.

In the United States, many states — including New York — are banning the sale of shark fins altogether. While nobody has confirmed the species of the subway shark, if it is a dogfish, that would be particularly distressing. That is because it's the only kind of shark in the United States that you can still legally sell for shark fin soup.

Keith Wagstaff is a staff writer at TheWeek.com covering politics and current events. He has previously written for such publications as TIME, Details, VICE, and the Village Voice.

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