My family has recently paid a couple of visits to Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto and to the Shark Reef in Las Vegas. Now, one could question the humanity of keeping these fish in tanks, but one thing that came out of our visits was the eye opening messages about shark finning. What is shark finning you ask? It’s when the fishermen/women catch the shark, cut their fin off, then throw the still live shark back into the water to drown. A shark cannot breath if it cannot swim. Doesn’t that sound horrific? Makes me want to throw up thinking about it.
Why is this done? Well, why it is done so barbarically, I cannot explain. But the harvesting of fins is to feed the mostly Asian appetite for shark fin soup. A soup considered a delicacy that has mystical healing powers and is a status symbol served at most Chinese banquets.
So how has this relatively simple dish gained such an illustrious reputation? Well, part of the appeal of shark fin soup is that traditional Chinese medicinal lore claims that it possesses a wide range of almost magical healing and nutritional properties. According to some, it is even alleged to hamper the growth of cancerous tumors. It is also said to increase circulation, improve lung, kidney and digestive function and provide vital energy. In addition, when the dish first became popular, fishing technologies were much less advanced and catching sharks was much more challenging and dangerous. Therefore, the soup was special in its rarity and a sign that the person eating it was either very rich or very powerful.
The reality is, there is no health benefit of consuming shark fins, and in fact, shark meat has high mercury levels. Yet, up to 73 million sharks are destroyed this year this way. Since the 1970s, several species have had their populations decimated by 95%. Ninety-seven percent of the shark is discarded and they don’t kill the fish before it’s thrown into the water.
Help end this unsustainable practice before it ends the shark species and protect them from the torture. Don’t order shark fin soup. Tell all your friends not to order it either. And support the movement to ban it everywhere.