The ecological disaster of shark killing for their fins is nothing new, but recently there is a reflamed discussion in Hong Kong, stirred up by a video and the subsequent news report. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELtgIhD-4yk and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5hA00VZooc&NR=1) A group of young divers from Hong Kong went to The Philippines for a vacation, and witnessed a young whale shark dying on the beach, its fins cut off and its body covered with knife wounds. The young woman, still choked with tears as she recalled the scene, pleaded people not to eat shark fin soup. While the fact that Chinese’s demand for shark fins is the reason for many shark species’ near-extinction and a very cruel practice (the equivalent of chopping all limbs off a person and leaving him to die), the highly emotional eye witness account generate much attention and discussions among the public.
A facebook group has started a pledge to Say No to Shark Fin Soup. As a major consumption of the soup happens during banquets, there is a movement to ask people, especially newly weds, not to serve shark fin soup. As a matter of fact, WWF has a list of organizations who have pledged not to serve shark fin at their company events, and the list includes The University of Hong Kong, Disney and HSBC.
When I read the news, my reaction was, “Finally!” Generally speaking, Hong Kong people do not have a strong sense of environmental protection, especially when it comes to what not to eat. I can understand how, a long time ago, some fishermen caught a shark, and tried their very best to turn all body parts into edible food, a feat that Chinese is likely to have bragging rights to. I don’t think there is any nation who consume a bigger variety of animal parts. Anyway, for those who haven’t tried it, shark fin is basically a bland food that takes days and lots of work to make edible, and the flavor of the soup is derived from the chicken, ham, abalone and other ingredients stewed with the shark fin. I can imagine how, with more primitive fishing boats and tools, it is a hard ingredient to come by and thus made it a delicacy afordable only to the rich, giving the dish a prestiguous statue.
Today shark fin is no longer a by product of a caught fish. As a merchandise fetching up to 500 times more than the meat itself, the fishermen started to cut the fins off the fish and, not bothering with processing the meat or wasting cargo space, throw the dying fish back into the ocean. As humans becoming a much more capable killer of sharks than the other way around, the shark population is being depleted faster than the slow growing fish can reproduce. Add to that the increased affluence of China, and sharks are in serious trouble. As the proven scientific fact shows that shark fin has little nutritional value and lots of mercury and heavy metal, there is really no argument to continue eating shark fin. (Well, actually on surfing the web, I came across an argument: if we stop eating shark fin, we will put those fishermen out of work. To which I would reply, yeah, just so Afghan poppy growers can bring food to their kids, go get some opium.)
Hong Kong is the epicenter of shark fin trade, importing close t 10,000 metric tons of shark fins a year. Some comments claim that whatever decreased consumption this recent publicity may generate is hardly a drop in the bucket compares to the consumption in China. Nonetheless, I feel very positive. All great movements start with a very small group, but that small, seemingly insignificant effort is a pebble that can generate lots of waves. In fact, my research has led me to another news article. The Sakanaga kaitenzushi chain in Hong Kong recently won a bid for a tail of blue fin tuna, a fish which is near extinction. As the news made headline in newspapers, environmental groups voiced their protests, and a boycott was started. Granted, the number of people signing the boycott are likely less than what the chain’s customers number in one day, but it is an encouraging move nonetheless. While a lot of news have portrayed China as a country with little environmental concern or consumer awareness, when I read blogs and forum posts online, I often find educated, forward-thinking posters who are eager to make their country and the world a better place. I sincerely wish that everybody in the world will take a clearer look at his/her food and makes a more conscientious food choice. I believe that one day eating shark fin soup will looked upon in the same way as wearing fur. Our best effort to promote awareness is needed, however, before it’s too late.
Here are some more links about the topic.
You can also sign a Care2 petition at: