Say No to Shark’s Fin Soup

As much as it pains me to do this, I believe it is the right thing to do. Below is an article that’s been circulating for some time now, but when a point is being made, it never gets old.

I’ve known for a while that there’s no taste in shark’s fin – its all in the soup base / broth anyway. I guess I was in denail for a while. Anyway, I’m not someone who would take away something so precious from you without suggesting alternatives. According to my friend Robin (the same person who sent me this and made me all miserable :) kidding), Ovologue does mock shark’s fin soup. Unfortunately though, her group has yet to find vermicelli or mock shark’s fin with the same consistency, but as long as the soup still tastes the same … I guess I don’t care :(

Re: Previous entries with shark’s fin soup, I’ll leave it be. It’ll be a memory for me.

GO ME! I rock.

**********

Dear Friends,

I used to think my cousin Leo only wanted to stop eating Shark’s Fin soup because he wanted to see more sharks when he went diving, but after watching the documentary “Sharkwater”, I am no longer going to have shark’s fin either.

The documentary makes some really valid points and reveals the cruelty of “finning.” Once caught the shark’s fin is hacked off and the animal is tossed back into the ocean, left to bleed to death slowly before drowning. And no, sharks DO NOT regrow their fins. This is a common misconception. Once their fins are cut off, they suffocate and die.

Next time you are offered a bowl of shark’s fin remember that:

1) Sharks Fin has no flavor and little nutritional value. The flavor of the soup is a result of chicken and pork stock. And recent studies have found high levels of mercury and methylmercury in shark fin above World Health Organization levels that can cause a variety of severe health problems in humans, including sterility in men, central nervous system problems and kidney diseases.

2) Shark populations may have been reduced by as much as 90% because of the high demand of shark’s fin soup. Great whites are now endangered species. Sharks play an important role in the marine ecosystem. Sharks are the ocean’s apex predator and provide an important function in maintaining the ocean’s balance. Sharks eliminate many diseased and genetically-defective animals and thus helps stabilize fish populations.

Oceans without sharks is becoming a real possibility since female sharks produce only one pup a year and the young shark may take up to fifteen years to reach maturity. Without sharks, their former prey destroy other species, including phytoplankton, which produce 50% of the earth’s oxygen and help control global warming. Our food supply and even our oxygen could be at risk without sharks.

3) In addition, worldwide sharks kill an average of 10 people every year. According to WildAid, humans kill up to 70 million sharks over the course of a given year. Who’s the bigger killer?

By eating sharks fin, we are not only partaking in a very cruel trade, but we are endangering ourselves as well. Why put mercury in your body unnecessarily? Let’s save the environment by saving the sharks.

Sharks Fin 1

Sharks Fin 1

Sharks Fin 2

Sharks Fin 2

What can you do?

1) Educate your family and friends. Because of films like “Jaws,” humans have been conditioned to fear sharks. It is time that we reverse the misunderstanding. We are more dangerous to sharks than they are to us. In a way, we are endangering OUR own environment. Sharks play a vital role in the ecosystem and help counter global warming. The depletion of the sharks is an imminent threat, not one that will affect future generations, but one that will affect us now. For more information, go to: http://www.sharkwater.com/education.htm. If you would like a copy of the DVD, please let me know.

2) Follow the lead of celebrities like Yao Ming, Ang Lee, Jackie Chan, Tony Leung, and Stefani Sun and stop eating Sharks Fin. Tell your parents/ uncles / aunties not to order it at restaurants.

3) Consider alternatives for banquets and weddings. Be socially responsible. Make a statement by not serving it at your wedding and encouraging friends to consider alternatives. The statement that you care about the environment and the welfare of animals in danger is much more important than the status symbol that the bowl of sharks fin will represent.

4) The more consumption means greater demand, and greater demand means higher prices. Curb demand-  Say No to Sharks Fin!

5) Support our foundation: http://www.hksharkfoundation.org/ (website still under construction, but you can join us on facebook!). We recently produced a short film called “Fin” that won the ishothk short film People’s Award. :)

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5 Responses

  1. J, thanks for the plug(s). You’re a star!

  2. I have seen a lot of media coverage regarding shark finning but till now, I have not seen any concrete data that shows that shark finning is the cause of the dwindling shark population. Moreover, is shark finning really as widespread as depicted in the media? Please read
    “http://www.wildsingapore.com/news/20061112/061201-2.htm” and draw your own conclusions. The link leads to an article written by Dr Giam Choo Hoo and also contains the replies to it.

  3. Thanks for the comment Frank! Certainly an interesting topic and debate :)

  4. Thanks for this, I feel compelled to educate the pple around me about this also. How do I get a copy of Sharkwater on DVD in Singapore please?

  5. Kathy – you should be able to pick up a copy of Sharkwater at any DVD store in Singapore. Or you can purchase through Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Sharkwater-Blu-ray-Rob-Stewart/dp/B0013FYT7G/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1255581411&sr=8-2)

    In response to Frank’s post, Dr Giam Choo Hoo, has written to the forum of the South China Morning Post on Oct 14, 2009:

    “Those who claim that sharks are being decimated for soup and that many millions of sharks are killed every year just for their fins, continue to blame shark’s fin soup for the death of sharks. This is not true. Sharks are caught by all nations and races, for their meat. Fins are a valuable by-product.

    That all fins are obtained by barbaric slicing is an urban myth. It would take an army to accomplish this. The vast majority of fins in the market are taken after the sharks’ death.

    No one denies that such cruelty exists. Live-finning is reported in the Pacific islands and by some long-line fishing vessels, principally targeting tuna. When the less valuable sharks are caught, they are thrown back to make room for tuna. This is kept secret because it is outlawed in many countries.

    Sharks are caught in three ways – artisanal fishing, commercial fishing by-catch and targeted shark catch. Food and Agriculture Organisation data shows that 80 per cent of the world’s sharks are from artisanal fishing. India and Indonesia are the two top shark-catching nations. Artisanal fishing is small commercial or subsistence fishing where bony fish, sharks and shrimp are caught in nets.

    Commercial fisheries targeting tuna, swordfish, and prawns inadvertently capture sharks.

    To quote WWF: “Wherever there is fishing, there is by-catch, one of the greatest and most pervasive threats to the marine environment. The numbers are staggering . . . 300,000 small whales, dolphins and porpoises, 250,000 turtles, and 100,000 sharks in the Mediterranean Sea alone per year.”

    Targeted shark fishing occurs. The European Union is one of the largest shark meat consumers. In Britain it is fish-and-chips, “rock salmon” or “huss”. In Germany, it is sold as sea eel and belly flaps are smoked to make Schillerlocken, a German delicacy. In France, fresh shark meat is aiguillat commun or saumonette d’aiguillat. Flake, a popular commercial fish in Australia, is actually shark meat.

    The fishermen of Asia, Africa, and South America sell their catch to the local markets. They are too poor and hungry to throw away the meat and retain the fins only.

    Shark by-catches from commercial fishing are kept. Europeans keep the meat of spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks, and sell the fins (to Asians). The Taiwanese and Japanese consume both meat and fins.

    Europe has been fishing sharks in the Atlantic for decades. The Mediterranean stock has disappeared. The EU will reduce its catch.

    The reduced EU catch and the millions accidentally caught by artisanal fishermen and commercial fishing by-catch, will still leave many fins available. Most of the fins go to Hong Kong, the largest fin trader in the world.

    Campaigning to change the Asian palate is wrongly conceived. Sharks are dying because of universal consumption and they will continue to die and deplete.

    Dr Choo-hoo Giam, member, animals committee, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ”

    Dr Giam Choo Hoo is a Singaporean vet who has worked or is still working in the AVA – Agri-food and Veterinary authority (a Singaporean government department, similar to our AFCD), who is also a CITES member.

    He has written a similar letter to the Singapore straits time in a featured article in 2006 (link in Frank’s post above).

    In response to this article, one of our HK Shark Foundation members wrote:

    “Dr Giam is shifting the blame of shark depletion to global shark meat consumption. The truth is the demand for shark fin is a very significant contributor to the plummeting shark population in the last decade or so.

    The shark fisheries industry started changing about 15 years ago as economic value of fins outweighed that of meat. Demand for shark fin far exceeds the demand for shark meat due to the exponential increase of affluent Chinese. Fins, which used to be a by-product of shark fishing, became the main reason to catch sharks. Yes, the Germans may want their Schillerlocken, or the French, aiguillat commun, both made from shark meat, but more shark fin soup is desired by more Chinese.

    The finning industry is very lucrative and it would be naive to think that ‘the fishermen of Asia, Africa, and South America are too poor and hungry to throw away the meat and retain the fins only’. Economy rules; the target are shark fins. Space in which to store and keep the shark carcass fresh out at sea is limited, and due to the relatively low value of shark meat, most fishermen, especially struggling subsistence fishermen, will discard the carcass and only retain the fins . This is an illegal practice well-documented to be rampant throughout Africa, South America, and South-East Asia. Documentaries such as Sharkwater (Rob Stewart, 2006) unveiled the clandestine mafia-like operations of the scale and scope of the finning industry.

    It is important not to play the cultural card in regards to environmental conservation, where sharks are crucial in maintaining the health of the ocean ecosystem. Moreover, consuming shark fin soup is not an “Asian palate” as claimed by Dr Giam. Widespread consumption of shark fin did not occur before the mid-1970s as shark fin soup was rare, expensive and historically, only available to Chinese nobles and Emperors. Capitalism, consumerism and marketing made shark fin soup a sought-after delicacy by the increasing number of affluent, urban chinese; shark fin’s availability is further facilitated by modern fishing technology — where anything, anywhere could be caught with relative ease.

    As a member of CITES comittee and a veterinarian, Dr Giam could have spared more thoughts before writing an article of such obsolete inaccuracies and misplaced cultural pride, impeding the work of shark conversation, especially at this critical juncture when the health of the planet is the issue du jour. More valuable effort could have been put in adding more shark species to the endangered CITES I category.

    Dr Lim Kwok Zu”

    Hope we can continue talking about this issue.

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