A recent article highlighted a problem that we hoped was going away: continued shark finning in order to make shark fin soup (click here for the article ). Shark fin soup is a traditional dish in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine, but it is found worldwide in Chinese restaurants. It is traditionally a luxury food that used to be served at special events. The interesting thing, however, is that shark fins only give texture to the dish, but the actual flavour comes from other ingredients. So, shark fin is not even necessary for the soup itself, and easy alternatives exist.
As anyone who has visited this website knows, sharks are under intense pressure in the wild. They are killed as by-catch, targeted for sport fishing, and of course killed for their fins. As we all know, the number of sharks killed is in the millions each year, an unsustainable number. If shark fin soup was just a niche luxury food, maybe it alone would not be such a problem. However, as China’s huge population has become more and more wealthy, demand for shark fin soup has boomed. Now this dish is a serious cause of trouble for shark numbers.
Every country has its own traditions and cuisine, and these are worth respecting as much as possible. So can we fairly criticise the Chinese for eating shark fin soup? Many people argue that we cannot. However, climate change is a global environmental issue, so is green house gas emission, and so is plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, to cite just a few examples. Plummeting shark numbers is also a global environmental issue, and therefore it must be part of a global conversation. This isn’t a matter of criticising national traditions, but of including them in global questions of environmental ethics.
What can we do?
Firstly, avoid eating shark fin soup!
Secondly, at a restaurant that serves shark fin soup, explain why you are not eating it or why you are unwilling to eat at that restaurant.
Lastly, spread the word and consider raising this issue with your politicians.
As always, individual efforts might seem too small to be meaningful, but a collection of individual efforts can bring real change. Let’s do this for the sharks.
Written by: Sarah Geron and John Gardener