Sharks’ Fin – The Red Flag

Our guest writer today is JENNIFER LEEShe is the founder of Project:FIN, which aims to educate and generate awareness about shark finning and its impacts to the marine ecosystem. She is also a registered volunteer of a wildlife organization in Singapore, and a member of a non-profit animal-assisted therapy organization. Her full-time profession is in marketing, and she is an avid writer of conservational topics and literature.

This is a full version of the article sent to the Straits Times Forum page.


The coming of Chinese New Year brings added stress to people concerned with marine conservation.

Dying sharkAs many might know, Asian fleets would go out to sea and have the sharks finned alive, then thrown back into the ocean to bleed to death. The dying sharks could sit on the seabed for days, sometimes up to several weeks before they finally die.

Long-lining, a fishing method often used to capture sharks, uses hundreds to thousands of baited hooks attached to each fishing line going up to 50 miles (80 KM) into the sea. This results in unwanted “by-catches”, often entangling and killing other marine creatures including dolphins, seals, whales, turtles, other fishes.

For every 10 pounds of fish killed, approximately 100 pounds of marine life were thrown away. In addition, edible fins only make up approximately 2% of a shark’s total weight.


Hammerhead pupsIncredulous wastage of lives aside, we are neglecting the fact that several species of sharks are endangered, and several species have been classified as critically endangered and deserve the same conservation status as the Giant Pandas. We are taking the life of 1 shark, possibly endangered, plus all others that were killed “by accident”, for the sake of this 2%, and it’s ironic that there’s no strong governance in place and we are free to trade their fins.


Shark fin trading is also no longer just about protecting sharks from potential extinction – its about protecting our future generations.


Galapagos SharkWe need to understand that sharks being apex predators of the ocean, have the power to collapse the entire ocean’s ecosystem with their decline. Sharks control the population of fishes that feeds on phytoplankton, which is responsible for taking in carbon dioxide (the culprit for global warming) and turning them into oxygen in the ocean. With the decline of sharks population, we can expect a sharp, steady decline in phytoplankton, hence affecting oxygen levels in the ocean.


The killing of sharks at the current merciless rates will greatly impact the entire ocean’s oxygen supply and eco-system. We are killing sharks at a rate of approximately 100 MILLION sharks a year. This figure excludes unreported figures through illegal fishing.


We rely on the ocean for food and we are causing damage that is serious enough to destroy our major food source – the lobsters, tuna, snappers, etc fishes from the ocean that we have on our plates today, may no longer be available in generations to come if the entire ocean dies from the lack of oxygen.


Lets also not forget the fact that the Earth is made up of 70% water, and that water cycle is such that water from the sea will evaporate and form part of the air that we breathe. Oxygen on land is very much dependent on oxygen in the ocean, and by neglecting this fact, or by choosing to remain insistently nonchalant, we are bringing death to the Earth.


Reports by the United States Food and Drugs Administration also shows that the mercury levels in sharks is one of the highest amongst other marine fishes, at 0.988 PPM (mercury concentration).


This means that Sharks has mercury concentration that’s 70 times higher than salmon, sardines, or oysters (See Reference). Pregnant women, young children, and nursing mothers are strongly advised against consumption.


While lots of Singaporeans would lament that this is a tradition that’s hard to change, its time to sit down and start weighing our pros and cons. Let’s also not forget that headhunting and feet-binding were traditions too that have been discontinued as we became more aware of the consequences. Yet for years, we have strongly fended the tradition of shark fin consumption, despite warnings from conservationists, scientists & marine biologist around the world.


Shark on ocean floorWe’ve killed so many sharks that many species have fallen to between 1% – 10% of their original population, just 15-20 years ago. Sharks are slow to mature, taking between 7-25 years to reach sexual maturity, and they do not reproduce in schools – most are only able to produce 1-2 pups per year.


Singapore is the world’s 3rd largest consumer of shark’s fins. This means that we have control over the situation, we have the option of saying no, and we have the ability of influencing and greatly reducing the demand for shark fin.


There are alternatives to shark’s fins that we can consider. Shark’s fin is not a staple to our diet and it definitely is not a tradition worth keeping.


Think twice before you order the fins this Chinese Year. Ignorance is definitely not bliss.


Jennifer Lee


You may email her for enquiries. Also check out Project: FIN on Facebook.


Photos provided with permission of Marine Photobank . Photo credits in order:

1) Wolcott Henry/Marine Photobank
2) David Jacobsen-Fried/Marine Photobank
3) Jack Ross/Marine Photobank
4) Nancy Boucha, www.scubasystems.org 2005/Marine Photobank


Other articles you may be interested in :

Gong Xi Fa Cai: Celebrate a Green Chinese New Year!


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Posted by on Feb 12 2010. Filed under Animals/Wildlife, Wildlife. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

2 Comments for “Sharks’ Fin – The Red Flag”

  1. [...] ALSO: Sharks’ Fin — The Red Flag, by Jennifer Lee, a founding member of Project [...]

  2. great write out. i am a non fin eater for many years.

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