Reasons not to eat Shark Fin Soup

A very long time ago a group of beggars in Fujian, China was cooking a soup from all the assorted meat and stuff they gathered. It was said that the soup was so good that even monks of the abbey where the beggars cooked their soup were so taken by the aroma that one of them jumped the wall in order to taste the soup. Now the monks of that abbey had taken avow nor ro eat any meat, they were vegetarians, but the soup was so good that it led one of them to literally jump the wall. The soup was called fo tiao qiang or Buddha Jumps over the Wall. Even Buddha the Vegetarian would not be able to resist it.

The actual dish has become one of the signature or classic dishes from Fujian. According to Hanchao Lu, It takes several days to prepare and is made up of more than thorty main ingredients and a dozen condiments. Ingredients include but not limited to – shark’s fin, fish lips, fish stomach, sea cucumber, pork tendon, duck gizzard and the lists goes on and on.

It is actually one of the more famous Shark’s Fin soup around. The story though reminds me of a fairy tale told in Europe about a beggar who taught a cruel cook how to make the best soup in the world. The soup’s main ingredient was a piece of rock but it had to be cooked with a myriad or nearly countless array of ingredients.

Shark Fin Soup has been considered a delicacy for a long time. Something to be served to honored guests and a dish for special occassions. Unfortunately, there seems to be an increase of special occassions and honored guests that there has been a great decline in the Earth’s Shark population:

According to the UN-Food and Agricultural Organisation, over 100 million sharks and shark-like fish are caught every year. An estimated 50% of all sharks taken are caught unintentionally as ‘bycatch’ in other fisheries. Shark bycatches are often caught in longline fisheries such as tuna and swordfish, and as these popular fish become increasingly depleted, restricted, or seasonally unavailable, fishermen are turning to sharks as an alternative. Sharks caught as bycatch are often ‘finned’, and the rest of their bodies, often still alive, are subsequently thrown overboard.

Trade in Body Parts
Shark fin, meat, liver and other parts are sold for food or as ingredients in health and beauty aids. Shark fins however, are the most popular, fetching up to US$564 per kilo. More than 125 countries participate in the shark trade. The United States and Mexico alone landed more than 100,000 metric tons of shark in 1994 and are considered two of the top shark fishing nations in the world. The Basking shark, which is protected in UK waters, but hunted elsewhere for their dorsal fins, can fetch US$32,000 per tonne as a delicacy in parts of Asia.

The practice of shark finning has increased dramatically in the Pacific where the number of sharks killed in the Hawaiian long-line fisheries climbed from 2,289 in 1991 to 60,857 in 1998 – a extraordinary increase of over 2,500 percent!

More than 98 percent of these sharks were killed for their fins to meet the huge increase in demand for shark’s fin soup. And since shark fins make up only one to five percent of the animal’s bodyweight, 95 to 99 percent of the shark is often wasted. [Source]

Suprisingly, Shark’s fin is prized not for its taste but for its texture.

And there are doubts about its nutritional and health value: It has not been proven to contain the only source of a miracle drug. In fact in one article it has been warned that because of the mercury pollution in the ocean the fins may actually contain the said toxic element and eating the fins may lead to among other things sterility [Source].

There seems to be no compelling or convincing reason to eat Shark fin. On the other hand with the decline of the population of sharks all belonging to the Super Order Selachimorpha – most of them being top predactors of the oceans and their extinction will most likely lead to shake up of our Ocean – there seems to be more important reasons not to eat Shark Fin Soup.

And more reason for Philippine Citizens to support this petition – An appeal to stop serving shark’s fin soup

List of Endangered Sharks

REFERENCES:

Hanchao Lu (2005). Street criers: a cultural history of Chinese beggars. Stanford University Press. pp. 73–74. ISBN 080475148X.

Liang Qiwen. Watch out for shark fin soup. China Daily. Updated: 2005-05-21 06:55

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