29 August 2007

Say no to Shark fin

I just got home. It's 2.11am in the morning. And i'm thinking about shark fins. Why the hell am i thinking about sharkfins? It's just one of those random things that pop in your head and for whatever reason it is that i'm thinking about sharkfins at 2am in the morning, it must mean something!

Recently, i read an article in FINS magazine about shark finning in Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia. It is an area of roughly 7,000 square kms and is loaded with forested limestone islands, mangrove-ringed lagoons and is believed by some to have the richest marine biodiversity on the planet... and is nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Andy Miners, a veteran divemaster was so taken by the pristine condition of Raja Ampat's reefs that he made it his personal mission to preserve them. He negotiated and secured an area of 200 square kms surrounding the island as a "No Take Zone" - a protected area.

During his stay there, he suddenly realised he hasnt seen sharks on any of their dives.. which didnt seem quite right. On their last day of diving, he came face-to-face with a predator that explained the absence of shark. He came across a boat anchored in the mouth of a lagoon. And on deck were dozens of shark fins from small reef sharks, severed and drying in the sun. Below the surface, shark carcasses were strewn across the reef.

"It's difficult to describe my thoughts at that moment. Bloodstained fins, mutilated sharks, overpowering stench and an unconcerned fisherman... everything about the situation was wrong, and the feeling of powerlessness was overwhelming....
What lay below on the reef was even more devastating. I focused on the first of the finned sharks. Its eyes still had a flicker of life and its wounds were fresh. I imagined the exhausted shark being violently hauled onto the boat deck, and while it struggled in vain, its fins and tail slided off. Bleeding profusely and without fins, it was dumped back into the water, and sunk helplessly to the bottom. Deprived of water flowing over its gills, starved of precious oxygen, it suffocated to death."

It's plain disturbing. It's inhumane killing.

These fishermen produced a handwritten permit that was apparently signed by the head of local villages to Andy. The permit cost the equivalent of US$30 for 30 days of shark fishing. If they caught 300 sharks in 30 days, it worked out to $0.10cents a shark. A bowl of shark fin soup can sell for up to US$150. It is just so wrong.

I believe many of us will argue what is the difference between killing a shark and a fish. The difference is the whole fish is consumed whereas the shark is dumped back to the ocean bed...left to die.. helplessly and pitifully. Some of them are facing extinction. And what is the leading driver of shark finning? Shark fin soup.

One of our divebums, Caroline recently found some shocking facts about sharkfins. She wrote:
"Did you know that sharks fins consumed alone are tasteless? Its the soup, the chicken stock that puts the flavour in the soup! So why not drink a chicken soup instead? Do you even know the cooking process - drying and bleaching. There's NIL nutritional value and what's more, it may even be harmful to health in the long term with high mercury content levels! Mercury is a neurotoxin that can cause extensive damage to the nervous system and to foetus." Read more here and here.

What can we do?
- Dont consume shark fin products
- Avoid companies that deal in shark fin products
- Educate your friends and encourage them to take action
- Join organisations that are working to end shark finning

. The next time you go out to dinner, say no to shark fins and let others know why!.

*Images and video taken from Blue Sphere Media.


.One of divebums' vision is to setup a coral reef management program in Brunei, that focuses on establishing Marine Protected Areas. I really look forward to the day we can make a difference.


Katie-Ella on August 31, 2007 at 4:24 AM said...

Great post! Shark fin's soup really is a con anyway - it's a status thing isn't it? I still feel guilty because it was served at my wedding. I felt uneasy about it but "caved in" when assorted relatives said "what kind of wedding banquet doesn't have shark's fin?" :( Crap excuse I know, but I'm older and stronger now. There's no way I'd buy it today.

Lee on August 31, 2007 at 2:07 PM said...

Exactly! I'm thankful that you're actually sharing your experience with us. Sharkfin's soup is like a staple in most wedding, but i really hope that with the knowledge that it serves no nutritional value, are of no taste whatsoever and the ordeal of obtaining them, people would learn to say NO. It really isnt that difficult.

Nonnie King on August 31, 2007 at 4:04 PM said...

* thinking what to substitute Shark fin soup for my wedding *

A-HA! Vegetarian Shark Fin Soup!

Lee on September 4, 2007 at 3:27 PM said...

Hahaha Nonnie, i guess it can be replaced by anything that has the same tasteless texture of shark fins. Or if for status sake, you can always got for truffle soup or salmon champagne soup. Sounds a dozen times better than SHARK FIN soup.

Thanis on January 4, 2008 at 11:04 PM said...

There are vegetarian alternatives - they got this melon called shark fin melon "Yi Zi Kua" - the insides are like sharkfin- to be used as a replacement.

Sadly - shark fins are rooted deep into the Chinese culture. If one doesn't' serve shark fin at weddings - people would claim the family is cheap and doesn't treat the guests.

There are of course tons of soups that are expensive yet taste better than shark fins soup - maybe next time can runding with the hotel to provide an alternative -

The challenging thing would be how to declare your wedding sharkfin free - without losing face or displeasing the relatives.

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