shark fin soup

Why Many are Saying “No” to Shark-Fin Soup

 

shark fin soup

What people eat is certainly a touchy subject. And to point the finger at certain cultures for consuming certain animals or for “unconventional” (by Western standards) food preparations is unproductive and, quite frankly, an act of ignorance. But, that doesn’t mean that if our eating habits begin to negatively affect our planet and the survival of certain species we shouldn’t begin to examine a way to fix the problem.

Sharks have been around long before the dinosaurs and have survived planetary mass extinctions at least four times. As the ocean’s top predator, they are a vital part of its ecosystem essentially controlling the balance of all species below them on the food chain.  According to a recent article in the Financial Times, “some species of shark have been depleted by 70 per cent and a few, such as hammerhead, bull sharks and tiger sharks, by 90 per cent or more.” A large reason for the sharp decline in the population is due to the massive demand for shark fins, which are used in making shark-fin soup, a dish that is served at many Chinese weddings as a sign of generosity and prestige.

Since the fins are the only part of the shark that become a lucrative commodity, they are cut off and the bloody shark is thrown back in the ocean to die. And as China’s economy continues to boom, many Chinese are becoming more affluent affording them the option to provide this expensive dish at their weddings.

The good news is that many Chinese are beginning to say “no” to shark-fin soup. As more people become educated and become connected to our global society, they realize the importance of this incredible species and the severe impact that endangerment and possible extinction has on our oceans.

California is also trying to play a role in restoring the overall shark population as the state is responsible for 85 percent of shark fins eaten in the United States. According to the FT article: “The California state legislature is debating a bill co-sponsored by Paul Fong, a Chinese-American Democrat, to ban the sale, consumption and trade of shark fin. Hawaii, Oregon and Washington state already impose similar bans.” “The bill sailed through the lower house assembly, but is being held up in the state senate because of concerns it discriminates against Chinese Americans.”

There is no question that this is an issue that must be handled very delicately. And it is not the only one that deals with humans over-consuming to the point of negative environmental impacts. We can only hope that each of us takes responsibility for our actions and for the impact those actions will have on the planet. The fact that many people are even thinking about, and are considering change is a hell of a good start.

Photo by: Chang’r/Flickr

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