In recent times, particularly through various editorials here in Hong Kong the issue of sharks fin has finally reached a point where media has picked up on it and given it coverage. I find the arguments rather curious. Everyone is happy to have a say, but no one is offering viable solutions.
I like sharks fin. Shark fin soup in Hong Kong when done well, particularly in a light fish broth, is a very delicate dish that tastes divine. However I, like many others, choose to no longer eat it because of the unethical methods with which the fins are collected.
What confuses me about the whole issue is why, globally and locally, governments can’t sit down and come up with a sustainable way to manage and regulate the shark fishing industry rather than simply banning shark fin. Hong Kong people are educated, intelligent people for the most part. If given the option of sustainably and ethically caught sharks fin, and an education on the unethical practices of shark finners (for these people surely can not call themselves fishermen) I am pretty sure the majority of the Hong Kong population would choose to only consume sharks fin from restaurants that could guarantee the origins of their ingredients met ethical standards.
Shark is eaten as a fish dish in several places around the globe. I first experienced “shark” on a menu in Sydney when I ordered fish and chips and the fish was … shark. It is a common ‘fish’ used in Australian fast food. Shark is a managed (but I won’t say sustainable) fishery in many countries.
The other day I saw someone write somewhere something along the lines of “We don’t chop off a lamb’s leg and let it walk back into the paddock.”
In the same way, we shouldn’t chop a shark’s fin off and throw the shark back into the sea. But if a shark is being caught for its meat, why can’t the fin be used in traditional Chinese cuisine?
When you step back and look at the bigger picture shark finning is really only one of the issues.
1) Sharks shouldn’t be caught for their fins alone. The whole shark should be kept and used.
2) Sustainable fishing practices need to be in place to protect all species of shark from over-fishing just like any other fishery.
3) Fishermen need to be regulated and punished with considerable fines if they fish sharks unethically both in purely finning and in over-fishing of shark species.
4) Restaurants need to stop the flow of unethically caught and immature sharks to cut off the fishermen who refuse to follow the rules.
5) Restaurant patrons need to boycott those restaurants that continue to serve non-regulated, non-ethical or non-sustainable shark products.
Shark finners have done (and continue to do) potentially species-threatening damage to sharks. I’m not convinced many of the shark species will be sustainable even as normal fisheries in a few years time unless governments act on a global scale. The argument by these sharks finners stating that they will go out of business or loose money is unfounded. Their profits are false in the first place by cutting corners to maximize their gains without thinking of the wellbeing of the ethnic diversity of the planet or the simple right to treat all creatures as humanely as possible. These finners have all but destroyed their own industry.
The more the general public is educated, the more pressure is put on restaurants to remove sharks fin from their menus. If Hong Kong bans sharks fin, the shark finners will be out of business here – effectively having sealed their own fates by their stupidity and selfishness.
You would have thought humanity learnt its lesson when it slaughtered whales to the verge of extinction. Yet history repeats itself.