You may have come across articles on the web calling for the boycott of shark fin soup and might have wondered what the controversy of shark finning is. Check out our unbiased explanation of what the big deal about shark fin soup is.
What’s Shark Fin Soup ?
Initially served only to Emperor in China, the shark fin soup carries a prestigious past. With the record-breaking increase in wealth in the Middle Kingdom and other Asian countries, shark fin soup is viewed as an expensive delicacy. Costing over $100 a bowl, serving shark fin soup is reserved for special occasions such as weddings or business banquets to either show respect (to such honorable guests) or to show off your social status.
Shark fin soup is made with a broth of chicken stock and Jinhua ham which gives it a smoked taste. While the broth is full of flavors, most (notably westerners) would agree that the shark fin itself is tasteless. However, it is worth noting that Asians value textures as much as taste.
Why is Shark fin soup so controversial ?
Now, could such a simple soup really pose a threat to the survival of sharks ? It’s not so much the soup but the rapid rate of fishing. At the moment, over 100 million of sharks are killed every year for their fins. Indeed, it is the fin that interests the fishermen most, for it can be sold for 35€ a kilo, compared to only 3€ for a kilo of shark meat.
In addition, the method of harvest, called shark finning, makes this soup ingredient even more objectionable. Fins are sliced off freshly-fished sharks, still alive. Once fin-less, the shark is thrown over-board to slowly die.
What’s the impact of shark finning on the ocean ?
“So what”, I hear you say, “millions of animals are killed to be consumed as food”. Sharks cannot be farmed, so each and every shark fin must come from a wild shark. But sharks play an important role in the biodiversity of the ocean. In this respect, shark finning has numerous negative ripple effects.
Human fisheries have slaughtered the shark population by 60 to 70%. Due to their low reproduction rate, sharks are at a high risk of extinction.
Amongst the largest species, these apex predators keep the balance of the sea in check. As they grow rarer and rarer, some marine creatures find themselves without natural predators and may overpopulate an area.
In addition, local population usually depends on shark for eco-tourism, attracting tourists looking to dive with sharks.
Why should you not eat shark fin soup ?
Even if you do not care about animal cruelty, shark fin soup shouldn’t rank high on your “must-try list”. Shark meat, similar to dolphin meat, has been found to contain high level of mercury. Mercury poisoning can damage your brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune system. Unborn babies are particularly at risk.