Shark Fin Misconceptions Blown out of the Water


Technically, sharks are less ‘fearsome’ and ‘powerful’ than mosquitos, and serving their fins to show status is quickly becoming outdated. Demonstrate insight by going Fin Free this Chinese New Year.#BiggestKillers_final_v8_no-logo

Considered “man’s best friend”, dogs kill 25,000 humans every year. Mosquitos, meanwhile, are responsible for the deaths almost three quarters of a million people annually.

And sharks? They kill on average 10 people a year.

This data was presented in an infographic on Bill Gates’ blog, highlighting that – from a human perspective at least – sharks are not deserving of the fearsome reputation that precedes them.

Tragically, and ironically, this misconception may well be their undoing – the very reason these magnificent, ancient fish are wiped out by us, a species that truly is capable of inducing terror.

Humans slaughter and consume 73 million sharks a year for their fins. That’s one every two seconds – a phenomenally unsustainable rate of systematic, industrial-scale extraction that’s been steadily escalating over the past 20 years. Across the oceans, sharks are continuously being hauled aboard ships to have their fins cuts off, and then thrown back in the ocean to drown.

Shark fin soup is a centuries-old delicacy, formerly reserved for the Emperor and social elite of China. Consuming the body part of a ‘powerful’ animal is perceived to indicate dominance, and strength. Similar cultural connotations are the reason tiger bone and rhino horn are also considered desirable.  

The past few decades has seen exponential growth in purchasing power in Asia. Millions of people can now afford luxuries historically consumed by Emperors. And they want them. This is pushing demand, and profits, in the shark fin industry up dramatically – and will eliminate the species if continued unabated.

Despite its bland flavor, shark fin soup is served at weddings, business banquets, and at festivals such as Chinese New Year to demonstrate status. But when the historical beliefs behind this dish are applied in a contemporary, scientifically-informed setting, their irrelevance becomes clear. By these outdated notions, a banquet serving mosquito wing soup would – theoretically – demonstrate that its host has a 75,000 times higher status than one serving shark fin. Not just that, this custom is also ecologically unsustainable in a modern context of mass consumption; and people are starting to realize that.

In Thailand, Freeland’s Fin Free campaign has received high levels of support, with over 180 business in the country pledging not to serve shark fin, including hotels, supermarkets, and restaurants. Thousands of people have also committed to saying ‘no’ to shark fin soup. Join the movement by pledging on the website, and encourage others to do the same. Correcting the misperceptions killing this species is the only way we are going to save them.

In anticipation of Chinese New Year, this week’s Freeland TV episode takes you to a restaurant that still serves shark fin, and explores the dark truths behind deplorable shark finning practices.