Thursday, January 26, 2012


Sharks aren't the true killers — we are.

Sharks netted will have their fins sliced and thrown back into the sea to die.

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."

Sharks populations can't withstand commercial fishing the way more fecund marine species can. Unlike other fish harvested from the wild, sharks grow slowly. They don't reach sexual maturity until later in life — the female great white, for example, at 12 to 14 years — and when they do, they have comparatively few offspring at a time, unlike, say, big tunas, which release millions of eggs when they spawn. (Not that overfishing has left big tunas in much better shape than sharks, but that's another story.) As a result, the sharks that are netted are either adolescents that have not had a chance to reproduce or are among the few adults capable of adding new pups to the mix — and never will. "The shark stock on the Great Barrier Reef was hit hard when fishing started in earnest here 30 years ago, and it hasn't recovered at all," says Richard Fitzpatrick, a filmmaker and marine biologist who studies shark behavior on the Great Barrier Reef.

Though Hong Kong is widely considered the hub of the industry in terms of both consumption and trade, sharks are caught throughout the world's oceans. Since the 1950s, the oceanic whitetip has declined 85% in the northwest and central Atlantic. In the past 25 years, certain hammerhead sharks have declined 83% in the northwest Atlantic and up to 70% in the eastern Pacific and southwest Indian Ocean. Together, 126 of an estimated 460 shark species are threatened with extinction.

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."




On 14November last year Karen, Patrina and I at a wedding in Oriental Banquet abstained from sharkfin soup and suckling pig.



Monyet King said...

FYI. The Sabah state government has recently banned shark fishing. Unfortunately enforcement is difficult.

Anonymous said...

ok zorro. i got you. no more sharkfin for lunch/dinner from now onwards.

Anonymous said...

how come suckling pigs also came into the picture......whats the issue here?

Sashi said...

so sad

nstman said...

Anybody who eats sharks fin is worse than a war criminal, worse than Nazis and gestapos. Enough said.Bastards, an insult to humanity

Antares said...

"They're under huge pressure to make money."

That says it all. Time to ban money-making as a reason to live!

We can make art, make music, make love, make good furniture, make good friends... these things are real. Money isn't!

zorro said...

Anon946pm....those piglets have had no chance to grovel in the muck and they are served as a the way where are you from?

zorro said...

Monyet King, as always the government has all those transformation plans. It is sustaininbility you and I are looking for.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for highlighting the issue! I have not had shark fin since I was 12 though at times I am tempted to take a sip :)
For anybody who does not see any problem with this issue should take a class on sustainability...


passion1 said...

Anon946pm, eating suckling piglets is like eating small human babies. Why can't we just have roast pork instead?

zorro said...

Passion1, thanks for answering that imbecile. I have lost my patience with people who are THICK up there.

Anonymous said...

passion1 & zorro - then you both should not eat eggs......those poor unborn chickens.

btw - i agree 100% with the campaign against having sharksfin!

Anonymous said...

It is the soup that is Ramsey said, you could have used duck, chicken etc. Shark fin soup obviously started as a exotic, emperor's dish and now unfortunately everyone wants to eat it. Just eat the soup minus the shark fin!

Anonymous said...

Dear Uncle Zorro

Touching picture of the shark.

It's like amputating a human being and devouring the person's limbs !

Phua Kai Lit

wongty robert said...

Yes, once shark fins soup is removed from a Chinese restaurant menu, sharks would have no more commercial value and would be left alone. However, the hunting of human sharks should continued especially in our country Malaysia.

Jong said...

It's about time we stop eating sharks fin. When demands stop supply will, automatically. Let's save the sharks!

peng said...

I second the boycott of sharks fin! It is tantamount to those stories we heard of children's limbs being amputated so that they can beg to earn money for syndicate devils!

Anonymous said...


This is plain western hypocrisy! They sliced open the belly of beluga fishes to take their roe, canned them and sell them as high class caviar ... those roe are babies of the beluga fish!!!

And no one in Malaysia says anything about that ... so what's so different about shark's fin.

And is it not equally cruel that we eat meat ... if we can understand animal languages, we will hear them pleading for their lives.


nstman said...

to shark eating bastards and criminals: How would you feel if somebody cuts your precious legs and arms to make a delicious soup and then throw you out into the sea? Bastards

Anonymous said...

Yes support it. Zorro, by the way many restaurants including those in 5 star hotels had been serving fake shark fins for the past few years especially during wedding dinner. Nowadays what we are served are most likely fake shark fins.

Anonymous said...

Antares said...
"They're under huge pressure to make money."

Odd isn't it that the Quran forsaw this centuries ago:

You are obsessed by greed for more and more
Until you go down to your graves.
Nay, but you will come to know!
Nay, but you will come to know!
Nay, if you but knew it with the knowledge of certainty,
You would indeed see the hell you are in.
In time, indeed, you shall see it with the eye of certainty:
And on that Day you will be asked what you have done with the boon of life.

Surah 102



Anonymous said...


This is quicksand, Zorro. The fact that we human eats other living things, plant included mean we are doing something cruel to non-human. What's the difference if humans are killed for food or a limb of a human is cut for food?

If you and all your high and mighty commenters here want to take the high moral ground ... just eat stuff the falls from trees or are already dead.

It is not for you to judge shark fin eaters if you are eating other living things that were pre-killed.

SK Au Yong said...

Man is born to hunt to survive. Once the basic need of food, shelter and clothing is met, Man will move up the heirachy of needs and wants. At this stage Man seeks safety, comfort, recognition before moving to self actualisation. At this stage of seeking comfort, there is always the dangers of going overboard. It is hard to draw a line of what is 'overboard' and will differ from person to person. However, it is decent to say that harvesting sharksfin is cruel and not acceptable. I am glad that this is highlighted and I fully support it. I hope all will too and we should support iy based on our conscience. If it can be proven that eating eggs is cruel, I will support any effort to stop eating eggs. As for caviar, I support not eating it as like sharksfin, it is not a neccesity and I think it is cruel too.

Au yong

Anonymous said...

YES, dun just eat shark-fins BUT BUT eat the whole fish , DUN dirty the oceans ...ok !?

zika metal frog said...

the animal's throat is cut, and left to convulse, bleed out, dumped into scalding water, and plucked to the death. Parts of it chopped up, and served to humans and other animals. Leftovers are fed to animals or dumped as wastes. This happens thousands of times daily. Locally.

And, who weeps for the chickens?
And cattle? And hogs? So what's the difference between killing these animals and sharks?

If we are going to make a difference, we should target to make the biggest impact. For every shark killed, thousands of chickens and other animals are also killed for food.

Or are we just falling back onto animal instincts? Go after the smallest (minority group) and weakest? And yeah, herd mentality, follow the braying of others.

Meat = Murder.

There is no humane death. Only "animale" death. Humane death is a purely human construct to assuage our guilt and rationalise murder.

have you looked at an animal in the eye, slit its throat and watch it gasped its dying breath?

have you caught a fish, and watched it writhed in its death throes, 'drowning / suffocating' in air?

i support the moratorium on killing animals but i take umbrage at your condescension that those who eat shark fins are worse than those who eat other animals.

Meat = Murder. Period.

suggested reading:

better yet, go visit an abattoir today.
what's your excuse for not going?