Shark Fin Soup: How a delicacy is pushing sharks to extinction.



Bowl of Shark Fin Soup

Shark fin soup, traditionally found in Chinese cuisine, is considered a huge delicacy. Consumed at weddings, and other cultural events, shark fin soup is a sign of wealth. Aside from the taste, many people in the world consume shark fin soup because of the eliteness that comes with it. However, many don’t know the dark secrets to shark finning, and others choose to ignore it all together.

Restaurant Menu

The Cruelty of Shark Finning

What many people all over the world don’t realize, is that shark finning is one of the cruelest tactics of fishing, and is simply animal abuse. Because boats can only carry a certain amount of cargo, fishermen try to maximize the profits they can make per boat. Although shark fins are highly lucrative goods, the rest of the shark’s body is worth almost nothing on the market. In addition, shark’s are large and heavy, which means taking the entire shark would theoretically be an inefficient way to maximize profits. Because of this, when fishermen hunt for sharks, while the sharks are still alive they slice off their fins, an extremely slow and painful process for the sharks. They then throw the rest of the body back into the water while they are still alive, and essentially, are leading them to either bleed out or get preyed on by another marine species while they have no defense mechanisms. This brutal process contributes to the mass overfishing of sharks.

Shark Fins

Another issue with this industry is that because fishermen only take the fins and not the rest of the body, it’s hard for scientists to estimate the number of sharks that are killed. In addition, the numbers don’t add up. In Hong Kong, the “Mecca” for Shark fins, the numbers that they release are significantly higher than the numbers that the fishermen from countries like the United States, Costa Rica, Indonesia, and others release. This shows that the practice is also an “underground” type one, making it difficult to end with creating laws and regulations.

Currently, there are bans on shark finning in many different places across the world. In parts of US, it is required that boats that hunt shark bring back the sharks with their fins still attached, an attempt to reduce the number of shark carcasses being tossed back into the water as well as shark finning in general. As good of an idea as that sounds, these bans have been somewhat ineffective. Many shark finners are still doing these practices illegally, as the number of sharks in Hong Kong made for the soup are much higher than the number of sharks reported by other countries who sell their sharks to Hong Kong. A solution that could potentially significantly affect the situation, is reducing the demand for shark fins. If the demand for shark fins plummet, there will no longer be a need for fisheries to fish for sharks. Another solution is adding trade bans on shark fins on land. Although I think having bans on things are somewhat effective, the most effective solution would be to lower the number of consumers for Shark Fins. If there’s no demand for shark fins, there’s no need for Fisheries to get shark fins.

After a lot of research I decided it would be interesting if I conducted an interview at my school to find out if my classmates knew a lot about the Shark Fin Soup process. Below are my results

To many, the thought of 50% of my classmates having had tried shark fin soup seems like a lot. However, because my school is located in Japan and shark fin soup is a delicacy in many asian cultures, the numbers would be higher here than that of a school in America.
To be honest, I was impressed by how many people actually knew about the cruelties behind shark fin soup. Many who responded that they have both tried the soup and knew the cruelties elaborated that they weren’t in a position to refuse trying it or that they were at a much younger age and tried it before knowing about the cruelties. I was also impressed by how into detail people were able to explain the process. Many actually knew about finning and leaving the sharks to die.
Most people agreed with what I said that we should increase the awareness of the issue. Many also suggested having stricter laws as well as fines on the fishermen to discourage them from finning. A few others offered suggestions that I didn’t pre-make. One of them, was “People should make alternatives to shark fin soup because (I personally didn’t think it was worth brutally killing a shark for but) some people may really like it.” Another, was “Eliminate the socio-economic desperation causing fishermen to engage in cruel practices.” Lastly, there was “It’s more so about the cruelty of throwing the sharks back into the ocean rather than killing them. Eat the entire shark instead of taking away only their fins.” I was very pleased to see that many of my classmates wanted to offer solutions to the issue.
My teacher sent me a photo of shark fin soup on the menu at a restaurant he was eating at with his daughter in Tokyo. It was such a popular selection that it got sold out.

Call to Action/What you can do

Find this cause interesting? Want to learn more? Be sure to check out this non-profit organization called Shark Allies linked here:

Their goal is to conserve and protect sharks and rays and the ocean they live in. Founded in 2007, they have been a part of numerous legislature changes in the United States. For example, in 2010 they were a crucial part of a bill in Hawaii that banned the trade and possession of shark fins. Since the initial ban in Hawaii, 13 other states in the US have joined together in the fight to conserve sharks. In addition to being a crucial part in changing laws, they have also helped with awareness to the public, through forms of art and film. Also, be sure to check out #FinBanNow as well as #NoFinFL.

Here’s a cool video that explains what our world would be like without sharks. Be sure to check it out!

My Bibliography ^^^^

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  1. May 08, 2019 by Michael Bell

    I really like your project Bella. I can see from your video reflection how knowledgable and passionate you are about this issue. How can we best spread awareness about this outside this conference?

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