Scientists warn against eating shark fins this Chinese New Year
Shark fin is a delicacy in Chinese cuisine. Sources state that over 80% of Chinese population have tried shark fin soup at some point in their life. Shark fin soup is especially popular around Chinese New Year as a luxury item. This has environmentalists worried about shark populations being decimated for their fins as Chinese communities around the world are becoming more affluent. One lb of dried shark fin retails for $300 or more. The controversy around shark finning stems from the fact that poachers cut off shark’s fins while the animal is still alive. They than let it free into the ocean because shark’s meat costs very little and there is no point occupying ship's storages with it. However, research shows cutting off shark’s fins leads sharks to suffer a painful and slow death. Injured animals returned into the ocean cannot properly navigate in water and hunt without their fins. They will also often get eaten by other predators unable to swim away.
Humane Society International is targeting Chinese restaurants and diners in major cities across North America this week with its campaign against shark finning.
Shark fin soup, once prized as a symbol of wealth, is a highlight at Chinese New Year festivities and major gatherings such as wedding banquets.
But environmental groups says millions of sharks are dumped back into the world's oceans after their fins are cut off, leaving the top predators to die a slow and painful death.
Shu-Jen Chen, a campaign manager with the humane society, said Wednesday that Vancouver, Toronto, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles are among the cities where volunteers will target people who eat shark fin soup.
She said they've already handed out brochures at a Chinese New Year parade in Toronto and will do the same in Vancouver on Sunday.
While the soup is coveted for its supposed medicinal qualities based on the myth that sharks never get sick, Chen said her group is trying to educate people about the high mercury level in shark fins that's potentially harmful, especially for pregnant women.
Several Chinese restaurant managers contacted by The Canadian Press in Vancouver said they served shark fin soup -- until they were told they were speaking to a reporter.
"I understand (the issue) for the environment, but if I say something I might get fired," said one manager, who didn't want his name used.
Toronto filmmaker Rob Stewart, whose award-winning documentary "Sharkwater" chronicles the plight of the world's sharks, said the message is slowly getting out.
Stewart said he hopes to raise awareness on a massive level after his film debuts on Chinese TV later this year to a potential audience of 300 million people.
Worldwide, there's no ban on the shark-fin trade or the importation or sale of fins, he said.