Shark fin soup has been a highlight at important occasions such as corporate banquets, weddings, and New Year’s celebrations for centuries. But, over the last 30 years, the number of people eating shark's fin has risen from a few million in the 1980’s to more than 300 million today.
Shark fin is a tasteless ingredient added to soup flavoured with chicken or pork broth and spices. And while the supply is plummeting, the demand for shark fin is putting our planet’s sharks, and health, at risk.
Shark fin soup has been a Chinese delicacy since the Ming Dynasty during which time, only the Emperor and his guests ate it. Until about thirty years ago, shark fin soup was served mostly in Hong Kong and other cities with Chinese populations, but only rarely in China itself. This relatively low consumption of shark fin soup did not result in a significant problem for shark survival. The popularity of shark fin soup rose in the 1980’s as standards of living began to improve, and today, it is considered a status symbol at banquets, weddings and other special occasions. Serving it demonstrates the host’s wealth and prosperity given the soup’s price – upwards of $400 per bowl.
Shark Fin Soup is either served with fins intact, or where shark fin strands are pulled apart and served to add texture like a noodle would. The fin adds no nutritional value, and in fact, in most cases, can be dangerous to human health because of the extremely high levels of mercury present in shark meat and products.
Shark fin soup is consumed in Korea, Vietnam, Japan, and Thailand, although it is most commonly associated as a Chinese delicacy. The consumption of shark fin soup is mistakenly defended as a long-standing Chinese tradition, despite the fact that it has only started becoming accessible to the mainstream in the last 50 years due to its’ extremely high price and elitist reputation. In a recent survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong Social Sciences Research Centre, shark fin soup was part of a set menu in 86.9% of the cases, indicating that people mostly consume it because it is a pre-ordered item; with 78% of the respondents noting it is acceptable to leave it off the wedding menu. 85% of the respondents expressed strong or moderate support for the prohibition of the import of shark fins and 87.9% felt that the Hong Kong government should prohibit the sale of products that involve killing endangered species, showing a growing trend of refusal to support shark finning practices amongst the Hong Kong population.
Recent studies show precipitous declines in shark fin soup imports to China - as much as 70% - awareness is changing the world already!