WHY SHARK FINS?
Shark fin is the primary ingredient of shark fin soup, a dish that originated as a luxury item in China during the Ming dynasty and rose to popularity in the late 18th century as standards of living were improving and people could afford to show their wealth. It was coveted because it was rare and required elaborate preparation techniques.
Due to the massive upsurge in the Chinese economy and the improvements to modern fishing technology; in more resent times shark fin soup has become readily available, and what was once served at royal banquets is now served at weddings, business dinners and in many restaurants. In fact shark fin is now consumed all around the world by many different cultures, and demand is growing because of the prestige that is associated with consuming it; a single bowl can cost up to £100 pounds.
The sharks fins have little to zero nutritional value or taste as they are composed of cartilage, so the soup is flavoured with chicken or pork, and essentially what is being eaten is a glorified chicken broth, with the fins added to give the dish texture and the diner the allusion of power and wealth. But the shark fin is not only flavourless and devoid of nutrition - it is also extremely bad for you, due to a process called Bio-accumulation (see section further down page) shark fin contains very high levels of Mercury and other toxic metals and chemicals that can have debilitating effects to the brain and nervous system when eaten in large quantities.....yummy.
It seems very strange that all around the world we are destroying ecosystems and driving species to extinction all for a soup that is poisonous!
SO WHAT NOW?
Shark fin soup may have had its origins in Asia but it has quickly become a global problem, one that we must combat together if we are to stand any change of stopping the extinction of sharks for soup. Almost every country with a coastline is implicit in the trade and export of shark fin, with Spain ranking 3rd highest in the world for exports consistently year by year. The UK is also part of this problem, in 2010 the UK exported over 13,356 tons of shark fin to Hong Kong.
By educating people about the damage caused through consuming shark fin, engaging communities and cultures, and ensuring laws are upheld, as well as limiting the trade, sale and distribution of shark fin in a co-ordinated global effort, we can turn the tide on this epic slaughter and prevent one of the worlds oldest and most important predators from disappearing forever.