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!
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.
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.
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