So Just What is Shark Fin Soup?

by Bhavani Prakash

Asian consumers’ appetite for shark fins is severely threatening several shark species to extinction and destroying oceans.   Considered a Chinese delicacy, shark fin soup is often served at wedding banquets, business meetings and on special occasions as a status symbol, due to its high price tag and presumed health benefits.

Shark fins are sold in Asia  from anywhere between Euro 1000 per fin or Euro 80 per bowl of soup.  Top consumers include countries such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, with demand coming from other parts of the world as well from wealthier clientele.

A new short documentary called “Bowls of Blood” from Gary Stokes of Oceanic Love shows the path of shark fins from the ocean to the infamous bowl of soup, behind the closed doors of a Chinese restaurant’s kitchen in Kowloon, Hong Kong.  We are made to realise how pointless it all is, considering the mindless bloodbath and slaughter of sharks in the oceans!

Hammerhead pups  by David Jacobsen-Fried/ Marine Photobank

Hammerhead pups Photo:David Jacobsen-Fried

The basic facts about the shark fin trade as outlined in the new Oceana.org report entitled, ” The International Trade of Shark Fins: Endangering Shark Populations Worldwide are shocking:

* Upto 73 million sharks are killed each year to meet the demands of the global shark fin market
* Shark finning uses only 2-5% of the entire animal, which is thrown back into the sea while still alive to die a slow and agonising death
* Hong Kong is the world’s single largest market for shark fins, importing nearly 10 million kgs in 2008
* There are 87 shark fin exporting countries, the major ones being Spain, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and United Arab Emirates
* Populations of shark species such as the North Atlantic oceanic whitetips have declined by about 70% in the 1990s. The Northwest Atlantic scalloped hammerheads have declined by 83% since the 1980s.

Shark Fin Trade

Source: Oceana.org

Other facts from Sustainablewaters.com

*Currently the EU supplies 27% of all fins imported into Hong Kong
Sets of shark fins can sell for more than US$700/kg, with hammerhead shark fins among the most valuable by weight
*A single Whale Shark pectoral fin can sell for up to US$15,000
Global trade in shark fins is increasing, and the market for shark fin soup is estimated to be growing by 5% per year
*A third of European sharks, and a total of 110 species of chondrichthyan fish are listed under a threat category on the IUCN Red List, with a further 95 species Near Threatened

Sharks are at the top of the food chain, and play an important role in maintaining the health of the marine ecosystems. They grow slow and mature late in life, have very few offspring during their long life spans. This makes them vulnerable to overexploitation.  To understand more about the function of sharks in maintaining a balance in our oceans, watch the 17 minute documentary “Sharks: Predators with a Purpose” at OceanicResearch.org

Many NGOs have been campaigning for the inclusion of shark species in Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which would protect them from commercial trade. 175 countries are part of this convention, and according to Matt Rand, Director Global Shark Conservation of the Pew Environment Group,  listing under CITES has been effective in protecting other animal species like the African elephant and the American alligator.

The CITES March 2010 conference in Doha, Qatar is now history. It failed hugely to agree on new trade measures to protect sharks. The next round will be only held in 2013.

According to the UNEP Press release:

Four proposals to include sharks in CITES Appendix II were rejected. The scalloped hammerhead, Oceanic whitetip, porbeagle and spiny dogfish – four fish species of great commercial value – were not added to CITES and can therefore continue to be traded without CITES permits.

Some technological advancements however, give new hope.  Shark fins can be traced using DNA tools for the first time, to their country of origin according to a new research report, entitled, “Forensic Methods in Conservation Research” as reported in this CDNN article. This could help in tracking and managing shark populations.

In the meantime, awareness has to be raised amongst consumers to stop consuming shark fin – a tasteless ingredient whose flavours are derived essentially from the chicken or meat broth in which it is stewed. There are no proven health benefits to eating shark fin either. Consumers are merely wasting money and precious oceanic life.

Further links you may be interested in:

EWTT: Shark’s Fin – The Red Flag
Sify.org: Demand for shark fins making sharks an endangered species in Andhra Pradesh
Oceana.org: The International Trade of Shark Fins: Endangering Shark Populations Worldwide
EWTT: Gong Xi Fa Cai : Celebrate a Green Chinese New Year


Gordon Ramsay eats Shark Fin for the first time



Amendments on 21st June 2010:

Thanks to a comment on Shark Rescue’s Facebook page by Robin Mellecker, the line “There are no proven health benefits to eating shark fin either” has been added to the conclusion to highlight that this practice has no scientific basis.

Please support these:

Sign this at the Petition Site: Ban the use of Shark Products in China

Donate to the fund raising campaign by Shark Rescue and Shark and Coral Conservation Trust. As part of the Winter Campaign, Delian Gaskell and Denvy Lo will put their fitness to the test as they hike through 250km of the Gobi Desert in 6 days in the Gobi Desert March. This is one of the toughest terrains of the planet, a wild and unforgiving place, and they’re taking on this challenge with the help of Shark Rescue. Click here to meet the Shark Rescue Champions.

Linkbacks: Petboutiques.eu


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Posted by on Jun 19 2010. Filed under Animals/Wildlife, Biodiversity, Water/Marine Life. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

11 Comments for “So Just What is Shark Fin Soup?”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ivan Kwan, ecowalkthetalk. ecowalkthetalk said: So Just What is Shark Fin Soup? Watch "Bowls of Blood" video http://bit.ly/cPDj5X [...]

  2. This is utterly disgusting ! No wonder why it is so expensive with the number of people who make a living out of fins… the result being a very ordinary soup broth with chicken or meat broth for the taste, soya sauce and corn starch to make it a little consistent. What a waste !!! However, the fishermen only make a living whereas Governments are the ones responsible for this massacre, All governments must pass laws to forbid shark finning and shark fishing, that goes for every endangered species so that next generations are given a chance to see and enjoy those magnificent animals. Shameful and disgusting !

  3. Thank you for bringing this important issue to your readers’ attention! If you haven’t heard, Hawaii recently became the first in the U.S. (and in the world) that ban shark fin. I wrote a blog post on percisely the same issue and would like to share it with your readers here. Visit http://bit.ly/iris-takepart

  4. [...] universe and everything – The Mind Game: Farquhar — True founder of Singapore? – EcoWalktheTalk: So Just What is Shark Fin Soup? [Thanks Bhavani] – department of crappy engineering: RoboCup 2010 Singapore – Balderdash: Pictures [...]

  5. Thanks, Alice for your comments…your sentiments are fair! Iris, thank you for bringing to our attention the fact that Hawaii has banned shark fin. This is good news and hope more nations will follow this example. We’ve shared your blog on our facebook fan page and twitter.

  6. So how is showing a video of a shark being slaughtered any different from showing a video of a cow or pig being slaughtered? Unless you are a vegetarian, condemning the process is hypocritical even showing a western bias.

    Extinction is no big deal. It is a natural part of nature. 99% of all species that has ever existed are already gone.There have been at least 7 major mass extinction events in the history of this planet and all extinction does is provide new species to fill in the spaces left behind.

  7. @Singaporean Skeptic…thanks for your comments. We strongly advocate meat reduction/vegetarianism/veganism at Eco WALK the Talk through our blogs and social media on various grounds – compassion and animal rights, preserving biodiversity and natural balance in ecosystems, reduction of world hunger through more efficient transfer of calories, and in case of industrial farming of livestock – reduction of carbon emissions, better usage of precious water, reduced land and water pollution.

    The normal rate of extinction is 1-2 species a year. We’re now losing about 2 species an hour!!! This is highly abnormal – about 1000 times the “natural” rates of extinction..and is often called the “Sixth Extinction” – the fifth one being the disappearance of the dinosaurs. The tragic bit is that this time round, we humans are the big meteors…trampling with our gigantic footprint on this one and only planet of ours, with our insatiable consumerist and growth appetite.

  8. [...] universe and everything – The Mind Game: Farquhar — True founder of Singapore? – EcoWalktheTalk: So Just What is Shark Fin Soup? [Thanks Bhavani] – department of crappy engineering: RoboCup 2010 Singapore – Balderdash: Pictures [...]

  9. I think the main challenge of standing up against fin consumption lies in the lack of education and empathy, resulting in nonchalance in way too many people who are under the naive perception that the human race can actually survive if wildlife were to go on rampant extinction, and as long as animals exist in farms to feed their stomach.

    We have no idea how life on Earth (OURS INCLUDED) is interdependent with the health of our oceans. The health of our oceans is directly dependent on what is IN the ocean. By relentlessly depleting keystone species (eg sharks in the ocean), we are directly impacting the eco-system and causing it to collapse.

    Now let’s not forget that Earth is made up of 70% water. Oxygen on land is dependent on oxygen in the ocean. When the ocean suffocates from the collapse of ecosystem, oxygen on land will be deleted as well.

    Just because this consumption of fins is rampant in Asia, it does not mean there’s nothing wrong with it. Just because the bulk of the voices against fin consumption comes from non-Chinese, it does not mean that these people are bias towards our tradition.

    Let’s also not forget that by supporting shark’s fins we are directly supporting the killing of animals for animal parts. Animals farms are cruel but they utilize the entire carcass and they do not impact the ecosystem, as with that of killing sharks for fins on a massive scale.

    Of course, the most ideal is for all to go on a vegetarian diet. But if there are people out there who are not able to convert to a full veg diet, perhaps we can consider opting for sustainable diets and not kill a entire animal just for the sake of 2-4% of its body mass. Shark’s fin is definitely not anybody’s staple food and it is something we can live without.

    It is easy for us to remain complacent and continue to point fingers at what people from the other nations should / should not be doing, OR we can start by looking internally at ourselves and thinking what is important to us – to secure our kids / nephews / nieces’ future or to let them know that their extinction is the result of our generation’s inability to prioritize.

    FYI – I am a vegetarian, and I am a Singaporean Chinese.

  10. wow..! three cheers to you, jennifer lee.. so succinct and totally brave… well done!!

  11. There are many other concerns the environment and animal cruelty we should be aware of like first world industrial and farming practices (animal cruelty, chemicals and pesticides etc.) and how we get our power (crude oil etc.). Since roughly half of all sharks that die from human fishing are caused by commercial fishermen’s “by-catch” (i.e. accidentally being caught in fishing nets, then the whole corpse is tossed back into sea) — just a thought: why not keep the sharks caught accidentally and limit it to that? When it comes to preserving the environment, it seems unfair to put the spotlight only on the decreasing shark population and totally attribute that to the Chinese culture. There are many other more powerful factors that are threatening our environment today that are a much bigger threat and much harder to control that we should all be aware of!

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