Great white sharks may live to be 70, according to the latest news. However, shark fin soup cuts significantly into that chance of longevity for a species that has been reduced by upwards of 70 percent in being a high status symbol soup in Asian countries.
Shark fin soup, cut out of the fins of shark species such as the great white sharks, has been sold up to $200 per bowl in Asian restaurants all around the world, where it has been estimated that millions of sharks die just to fill the market demand for their fins every year.
The great white sharks may live to 70, or almost as long as humans, according to a new study in Massachusetts released January 8 – but the omnipresent demand for shark fin soup continues to cut through that chance of staying alive.
The problem of shark finning has not been resolved, with more trouble lurking around the corner. Draft details are emerging from a U.S. trade deal that has environmentalists concerned that there is little being done to enforce the ban on shark finning. The original agreement, which delegates discussed at the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, was held in Bangkok last March.
Originally, a clear ban on shark finning was included in the environmental chapter of the new agreement, according to Ilana Solomon from the Sierra Club. And now, the text from the chapter simply states that “fish management plans” are to be made, which may include strategies to mitigate the issue of shark finning. There are currently no binding arrangements to curb the shark finning practice.
However, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative, the negotiations are still ongoing, and that the push still remains for strong measures which include the hot topic of shark finning.
Shark Fin Soup in Restaurants
In the restaurant world, the issue of shark fin soup is a divisive issue where restauranteurs are keenly aware of the line between the clientele who continue to ask for the soup and the environmental critics who are loudly advocating the removal of the soup off their menus.
At Auckland’s SkyCity Casino, for instance, The New Zealand Herald reported today that shark fin soup continues to be served on the dinner menu, at $70 per serving, despite the casino publicly stating the contrary. Similarly, the Jade Dragon restaurant, located at the same casino, has plans to serve a special Chinese New Year menu incorporating shark fin.
According to the news reports, the sharks fin dish was maintained on the Chinese language menu and it could be ordered by request, despite the casino’s assurances that it was working on the item’s removal. For the fins that are currently being served, according to spokeswoman Lydia Jarman, they are used are from a sustainable source where the fins are a secondary product only.
Other restaurants have shown progressive change, such as Auckland’s Grand Harbour restaurant where a large bilingual sign is displayed condemning the practice of shark finning. At Grand Harbour, they have encouraged alternative soups available on their menu – while at the same time admitting that shark fin could still be served upon request.
New public campaigns have begun emerging to condemn the culturally driven practice of eating shark fin soup – most notably one starring Maggie Q, an international star with a fan base in both Asia and North America.
The latest good news is that the great white sharks may live to 70, but the reality of the demand behind shark fin soup continues to cut into that chance of the species’ longevity, despite the ongoing attempts to turn the tide.
By Joscelyne Yu