Sharks aren't the true killers — we are.
Once favored by Chinese Emperors for its rarity, shark-fin soup is now eaten at weddings, corporate celebrations and high-falutin' business lunches to demonstrate a host's good fortune. "It's like champagne," says Alvin Leung, owner of Bo Innovation, a two-Michelin-star Cantonese restaurant in Hong Kong. "You don't open a bottle of Coke to celebrate. It's a ritual."
Unfortunately, this gesture of largesse comes with a price tag much bigger than that $100 bowl. Last week, as millions of viewers in the U.S. tuned in to Discovery Channel's Shark Week, probably nearly 1.5 million sharks were killed in the shark-fin industry — just like the weeks before. All told, up to 70 million sharks are culled annually for the trade, despite the fact that 30% of shark species are threatened with extinction. Indonesia, India, Taiwan, Spain and Mexico land the most sharks, according a recent survey of global shark populations conducted by the Pew Environment Group. "Sharks have made it through multiple mass extinctions on our planet," says Matt Rand, director of Pew's Global Shark Conservation division. "Now many species are going to go the way of the dinosaur — for a bowl of soup."
There has been some progress internationally after basketball superstar Yao Ming, who stopped eating shark fin five years ago, added his considerable size to the cause in September by urging others to join him and British entrepreneur Richard Branson in their abstinence. Sales have been reduced about one-third in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.
But as John Bruno, a University of North Carolina, told the New York Times, politicians need to attack shark fishing, not just shark’s fin soup:
If we’re going to save sharks, we need to start treating them as animals worth saving.
Global luxury hotelier, the Shangri-La group declared that its 72 hotels would no longer offer shark fin or other shark products in their menu.
"We are concerned about the environment and we have a strong corporate responsibility," said Maria Kuhn, director of corporate communications of Shangri-La's international operations.
The global luxury hotelier took shark fin off its menu on January 17, in a major boost to the campaign.
In Hong Kong -- the top shark-fin trading centre, handling about 50 percent of the global trade -- conservationists lauded Peninsula Hotels group's decision two months ago to similarly ditch the dish.
"We are very happy to see what they have done and we believe the demand for shark-fin consumption in Hong Kong will reduce," Stanley Shea, project coordinator at the Hong Kong marine conservation group Bloom, told AFP.
A survey by Bloom last year showed 78 percent of people in the southern Chinese city now consider it socially acceptable to leave shark-fin soup off the menu for a wedding banquet.
It is a sentiment which is gaining ground in Singapore too.
Alex Teo, 29, a banker said he left shark fin off the menu at his wedding last year despite initial worries that guests might be disappointed.
"We were not sure if people would feel unhappy about it, but seven personal friends who, when they replied about their attendance, asked me if we could not have shark fin, so we went ahead and removed the dish" he told AFP.
A growing number of shops, restaurants and hotels have in the past few months given up selling shark fin, throwing a lifeline to the marine predator that activists say is long overdue.
"Yes, we do see an increasing number of locals and international businesses saying no to shark's fin," said Elaine Tan, chief executive for environmental group WWF in Singapore.” More than 100 hotels and restaurants in Singapore and Hong Kong are now part of the programme, up from only 12 when it was launched in 2010,.”
"This change in attitude could be due to an increasing awareness of the plight of sharks as well as the result of many shark campaigns worldwide," she told AFP.
Mainland China -- believed to be the world's top consumer of shark fin -- is also seeing a dip in its popularity.
As public awareness grows in China, there are even moves towards a ban on the trade.
Businessman delegate to the National People's Congress Ding Liguo made the proposal, saying Beijing should lead the way because 95 percent of shark fin is consumed in the mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
TRAFFIC, an international network that monitors the trade in wildlife, said more action from Asian governments was needed.
"We see a clear shift in the public and corporate mindset away from shark-fin consumption and sale," Elizabeth John, an official with TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, told AFP.
"Unfortunately, it's not reflected in decision and policy making except in very few cases."
Hazel Oakley, a representative of Shark Savers Malaysia, which lobbies for a shark-fishing ban, said: "The time for this legislation is now. Public opinion has changed... The shark-fin wealthy Chinese market is definitely dying."
BEFORE WE DITCH BN, LET’S TOGETHER DITCH THESE MALAYSIAN RESTAURANTS
STILL SERVING SHARKS FIN.
On 14November last year Karen, Patrina and I at a wedding in Oriental Banquet abstained from sharkfin soup and suckling pig.
IF YOU ARE STILL NOT CONVINCED WATCH THIS VIDEO.