The case against shark's fin soup

The Star/Asia News Network

MANILA - I admit it, I used to enjoy shark fin soup. Not anymore.

My wife and I stopped consuming shark fin soup after learning what sharks had to go through before a bowl of shark fin soup is served to humans.

Reasons why we should say no to shark fin soup:

First, shark fins have low nutritional value.

Second, shark fins have no taste.

They get their taste from the other ingredients.

Third, shark fins are expensive.

Fourth, shark fins have no proven medicinal value.

In fact, they contain high levels of mercury (made more concentrated by the treating and drying process), plus hydrogen peroxide, which is used to make the colour more appealing.

Fifth, many shark species are on the brink of extinction.

Sixth, humans do not need shark fin soup to live but sharks need their fins to survive.

Finally, shark fins are harvested through a barbaric process known as shark finning.

Barbaric process

How are shark fins gathered?

First, sharks are caught.

Second, the fins are removed while the sharks are still alive.

And because sharks have as many as six big and small fins, they agonise six times over.

Third, they are dumped back into the ocean and are left to die an excruciating death.

Without their fins, they cannot swim properly, they cannot catch prey for food, they cannot defend themselves, and they cannot get oxygen, as water needs to be forced through their gills as they swim.

Why are sharks dumped back into the ocean after finning?

  1. Space - The shark's body is huge and takes a lot of space in the boat
  2. Price - The fins are worth much more than the rest of the shark's body.
  3. Spoilage - Ammonia produced by a decomposing shark body may contaminate other catch.

Why people eat shark fin soup

In many countries, including China and Hong Kong, the consumption of shark fins has declined after government interference, like banning the dish in state banquets.

However, since there is no law (yet) banning shark fin soup/dishes in the Philippines, some people still have the appetite to order them because of one or all of the following reasons:

  1. Culture or habit - Some people still believe shark fin is delicious, a delicacy, an aphrodisiac, has medicinal or nutritional value.
  2. Show of affluence - A bowl of shark fin soup costs a lot of money and being seen ordering or serving shark fin soup in a wedding or banquet sends a signal that the host is successful and has money.
  3. Ignorance - Most consumers do not realise the barbaric process involved in removing the fins.
  4. Indifference - They do not care about marine conservation or the fate of the sharks.

Why restaurants still serve shark fin soup

In the Philippines, many big, multinational hotels like Shangri-La and Peninsula have stopped serving shark fin soup since 2011 because they understand the bigger picture.

Their business continued to be brisk without shark fin soup.

Others, unfortunately, are still serving them because of one or all of the reasons below:

  1. Brand association - Dishes with shark fins are core products.
  2. Marketing - Customers ordering them have money, which means they can cross sell other expensive items as well.
  3. Fear of losing to competition - Some feel that if they stop, business will go to the competition.
  4. Apathy - They have no idea about shark finning or do not care to know anything about it.
  5. No social implication - They have not been pressured enough to stop.
  6. Law of foolish fellowship - If others are serving it, why should they stop? They failed to look into the possibility that stopping and publicising their reason for doing so can reposition them as a caring restaurant and a leader in seafood sustainability.

Citizen action requests

Now that you have read up to this point, I have three requests.

  1. Please share this information with others.
  2. Stop consuming shark fin soup or shark fin dishes. When you are served shark fin soup during weddings, banquets or meals, do not consume it.
  3. Write to restaurants serving shark fin soup to ask them to stop.

If there is no demand, then hopefully the cruel practice will stop.

When restaurants know we are vigilant, they will likely stop serving shark fin soup.

Action requests

  • To restaurants - Please stop buying shark fins and phase out this dish. Do not wait for people to hold placards or boycott your restaurant before you remove this dish from your menu. Offer alternatives.
  • To party hosts - Please refrain from including dishes with shark fin in your banquet order.
  • To guests and consumers - Again, please stop ordering and consuming dishes with shark fin.