Shark fin soup has been a Chinese delicacy since the Ming Dynasty. Back then, only the Emperor and his guests ate it. Until about twenty years ago, shark fin soup was served mostly in Hong Kong and other cities with Chinese populations, but only rarely in China, itself. This relatively low consumption of shark fin soup did not result in a significant problem for shark survival.
But now many of the 1.3 billion people of China are enjoying more prosperity. Shark fin soup has become popular, even obligatory, at banquets, business dinners, and weddings. That adds up to a lot of shark fin soup, and a lot of sharks are being killed for this soup.
These sharks are generally not caught for their meat, but for their valuable fins. The most prized shark fins can cost hundreds of dollars, with the average being about US$450 (HK$3500) per pound. Shark meat, in contrast, is worth less than most fish.
In large parts of the oceans, populations of sharks are already down by 90% or more in just the last 20 years. This problem is made worse because sharks reproduce very slowly, taking years to reach sexual maturity and then reproducing few young. Many species will not be able to out-reproduce the demands of the shark fin trade.
Between 1996-2000, shark fin imports grew 6% per year (Clarke 2004a). This estimate is over a decade old and the current growth rate of the trade is unclear, adding to the uncertainty of the impact on shark populations.
Then, there will be no more shark fin soup, other seafood species will disappear, and the oceans will no longer support the healthy balance of sea life that we need to survive.
We can do our part by not eating shark fin soup and encouraging our family and friends not to eat it. The taste of shark fin soup is not shark. It is usually chicken broth. Shark fin does not contain the traditionally believed high levels of nutrition content. Its value is traditional, but not essential. If we still want to have shark fin soup, artificial shark fin is worth considering, as it is less expensive and many people have trouble telling the difference from the real thing.
Balance and moderation are valued tenets of traditional Chinese way of life. We can all take pride and honor in recreating a balance to our ecosystem by choosing not to eat shark fin soup.
Perspectives: Social, Economic, and Regulatory Drivers of the Shark Fin Trade, SHELLEY CLARKE E.J. MILNER-GULLAND Imperial College London, Marine Resource Economics, Volume 22, pp. 305–327 - 2007
You can swim but you can't hide: the global status and conservation of oceanic pelagic sharks and rays, Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems (2008), NICHOLAS K. DULVY, JULIA K. BAUM, SHELLEY CLARKE, LEONARD J. V. COMPAGNO, ENRIC CORTES, ANDRES DOMINGO, SONJA FORDHAM, SARAH FOWLER, MALCOLM P. FRANCIS, CLAUDINE GIBSON, JIMMY MARTINEZ, JOHN A. MUSICK, ALEN SOLDO, JOHN D. STEVENS and SARAH VALENTIN.
The Conservation Status of Pelagic Sharks and Rays: Report of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group, Pelagic Shark Red List Workshop – 2007, Compiled and edited by: Merry D. Camhi, Sarah V. Valenti, Sonja V. Fordham, Sarah L. Fowler and Claudine Gibson
The International Trade of Shark Fins: Endangering Shark Populations Worldwide - Oceana CITES Report - March 2010
Shark Finning: unrecorded wastage on a global scale, Sept. 2003 A Report by WildAid and Co-Habit
Review of Fisheries and Processes Impacting Shark Populations of the World, By Terence I. Walker - Marine and Freshwater Resources Institute, PO Box 114, Queenscliff, Victoria, Australia 3225
“Previous analysis has shown that Hong Kong imports of shark fin rose at a rate of 6% per year from 1992-2000 (Clarke 2004a), but afterwards showed a nearly level, slightly declining linear trend (Clarke et al. 2007). Hong Kong shark fin traders attribute this trend to a loss ofmarket share to Mainland China. While this explanation is supported by the well-known liberalization of the Mainland China economy just prior to and as a result of entry to the World Trade Organization in November 2001 (Ferris 2002), Mainland China’s shark fin imports do not show a strong trend of increase since 2000. One reason for this lack of trend may be that in 2000 Mainland China began importing frozen shark fin under a category previously used only for frozen shark meat and therefore from 2000 onward frozen fins, which are an important trade component, are no longer distinguishable in the statistics (Clarke 2004b).”
Clarke, S. 2004a. Understanding Pressures on Fishery Resources through Trade Statistics: A Pilot Study of Four Products in the Chinese Dried Seafood Market. Fish and Fisheries 5:53–74.
Clarke, S. 2004b. Shark Product Trade in Mainland China and Hong Kong and Implementation of the CITES Shark Listings. Hong Kong: TRAFFIC East Asia. Available at http://www.traffic.org/content/232.pdf
Clarke S., Milner-Gulland E.J., Bjørndal T., 2007, Social, economic and regulatory drivers of the shark fin trade. Mar. Resour. Econ. 22, 305–327.
Ferris, G.D. 2002. What Change in China Means for Trade in Hong Kong. AgExporter, March 2002. Available at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3723/is_3_14/ai_84879836 in January 2007.