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Busting the 3 Myths of Shark Fin Soup

As the Hong Kong Shark Foundation (HKSF) gears up for its annual Cocktails for Change fundraiser this Wednesday, we take a look at the shocking reality of the shark fin trade in Hong Kong, and bust the biggest myths along the way.

Walk into any banquet hall in Hong Kong and pick up a menu, and chances are Shark Fin Soup will make an appearance. What began as purely a delicacy for emperors and the wealthy back in the Song Dynasty (960AD-1279AD) is a custom still very much alive in Hong Kong today. Ordered as a symbol of wealth, respect, and generosity to guests, shark fin soup is consumed to mark a celebration – but it doesn’t end there.

A survey released by the Foundation in January this year revealed that over 98 percent of the 375 restaurants surveyed in Hong Kong serve the traditional dish, some of which have already promised to be shark-free. This goes against common assumptions that shark fin consumption is on the decline in the region – in fact, over 50 percent of the world’s shark fins are traded through Hong Kong alone.

This leads to some pretty frightening statistics, given the fact that over 100 million sharks are caught worldwide for their fins and other products, often using illegal, unregulated, and cruel methods, whereby they are caught, have their fins sliced off, and thrown back into the sea to die a slow, painful death. It is even more shocking to learn that 85 percent of the menus that serve the product are heavily linked to species threatened with extinction, which currently sits at 25 percent.

shark death
A shark is left to die after having its fins sliced off. (Photo courtesy of HKSF)

The Foundation has been working hard to change the tides by reducing the consumption of shark fin in Hong Kong and raising awareness about shark conservation through protests, educating school children, and government lobbying. However, with no government ban on shark products in Hong Kong, and no guarantee that the products served in our city’s restaurants do not fall under the “endangered” category, it seems that the power to change the situation for the better lies with our city’s people – a message they are striving to convey.

“Hong Kong people are consuming a lot more shark fin than we think,” says Joan Chan, campaign director for Hong Kong Shark Foundation. “We believe that the public may not be “walking the talk” and passively consuming shark fin, since it is on nearly all set menus we surveyed. We call on the Hong Kong public to help conserve these important marine species and send a strong signal to the retailers of shark fin, by demanding shark fin-free menus and by not consuming shark fin soup.”

According to Chan, one of the main reasons that Hong Kongers may not be “walking the talk” are the myths that surround shark fin soup, so in the name of conservation, we decided to help bust them:

Myth #1: There is an abundance of sharks in the ocean, and they are dangerous to humans.

Truth: Each year, on average only 6 humans are killed by sharks, versus 100 million sharks killed. Humans need healthy oceans as a source of food, a way of supporting livelihoods and a means of regulating our climate eg approx 50% of our world’s oxygen comes from the oceans.

Myth #2: Shark fins taste good and are healthy for you.

Truth: Shark fin has no taste or nutritional value. The stock (usually chicken) is responsible for the taste, while the shredded shark fins are only added for texture which can be easily replaced. Serving shark fin soup may be a sign of wealth but it comes at a price that our oceans cannot afford.

Myth #3: There is nothing we can do.

Truth: Hong Kong has the power to change. Around 50% of the world’s shark fin is traded into Hong Kong, so if the people of Hong Kong make a stand against shark fin, the whole world will listen. Today, 78% of Hong Kongers find it acceptable NOT to serve shark fin soup at a wedding banquet, and 85% express support for a ban on the import of shark fin into Hong Kong.

To fund their activities for the next year, the Foundation need to raise $500,000 and they are relying on you to help them smash this target by attending their Cocktails for Change event on Wednesday, March 9 at Club PLAY. Click here to find out more about the event, and visit their website to find out how you can help them with their cause.


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