Stop the cruelty towards sharks. While in Thailand, please don't eat shark fin soup!
In the last fifteen years demand for shark fin soup has boomed in Asia. Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan are the main shark fin trading centres. Asian consumers are unaware of the cruelty and unsustainability of the shark fin trade. Increasingly on the high seas sharks are “finned” and the rest of their bodies, often still alive, are dumped at sea. Shark meat is often too low-value compared to the target species (e.g. tuna) so 95-99% of the shark is discarded to conserve hold space. Shark fin provides gelatinous bulk in shark fin soup, but it has no taste – the soup has to be flavoured with chicken or other stock. While a fisherman in India will earn only $6 per pound of shark fin, a bowl of soup can cost $100 in a Hong Kong restaurant.
Call for ban on shark-finning in Thai waters
The Nation, 9th March 2001
SHARKS around the world, including those in Thai waters, are threatened with unsustainable exploitation due to increasing demand for sharkfin soup and indiscriminate fishing, a wildlife conservation group warned yesterday.
Tens of millions of sharks are killed every year, with at least 8,000 tonnes of sharkfins shipped to restaurants around the world, WildAid said.
WildAid spent two years surveying 12 countries, including the main consuming markets and major shark-fishing nations, to check the latest status of the shark.
"Fishermen in all countries confirmed that the shark is hardly found anymore and its size when caught is getting smaller," WildAid director Peter Knights said.
"In Costa Rica, the shark population has declined 80 per cent in the past 10 years, while the rate in North America is as high as 90 per cent in the past 15 years," WildAid co-director Steven Galster added.
Growing demand for sharkfins, coupled with the increasing prosperity of Asian countries, had propelled illegal shark-finning in 70 to 80 marine parks and conservation areas, the report said.
WildAid, a non-profit conservation group based in the United States, launched its report entitled The End of the Line in Bangkok yesterday as part of its global campaign to save the shark. The report will be further publicised in Britain, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the United States.
The campaign in Thailand was backed by famous local film director MC Chatreechalerm Yukol, an avid diver with 40 years of experience. "I found fewer sharks during my diving in the past ten years," the director said.
The WildAid report and investigative footage show that sharks are often pulled from the water to have their fins sliced off while they are still alive, and then thrown back into the ocean to slowly die.
Large indiscriminate fishing operations have led to a global catch of sharks that now totals over one million tonnes per year, with virtually no controls on commercial trade.
WildAid and MC Chatreechalerm yesterday called on the Thai and other Asian governments to help protect the fish by declaring a ban on shark-finning in their waters.
Governments should also conduct field research to update their figures on shark populations off their shores, they said, as well as the current situation of shark fisheries in order to pave the way for a proper master-plan for sustainable shark-fishery management.
Four countries have already declared a shark-finning ban in their waters - Brazil, the US, Costa Rica and Australia.
The Thai government should urgently conduct a study as recommended recently by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, which asked member countries to submit a national plan of action for sharks as a first step towards the management and conservation of sharks, Knights said.
The master-plan would also help promote Thailand's tourism industry, he added.
"Sharks always attract diving tourists especially in Thailand, which is the home of the whale shark [the biggest shark species]," said Tim Redford, a WildAid staffer with 10 years experience around Thailand.
WildAid was running a worldwide campaign to educate people to stop eating sharkfin soup, Knights said. 'Consumer power' would be the heart of the shark-conservation effort in the long run, he said.
"People would stop eating sharkfin soup only if they know how the fins were taken," he said.
"Considering the cooking processes - drying, bleaching and drying again - all the taste and nutritional value is removed. The remaining taste is the only ingredient. The flavour of sharkfin soup is purely a fashion - image and face," he said.
BY KAMOL SUKIN
Shark fin ban toothless, say restaurateurs
The Nation, 15th March 2001
A CAMPAIGN to ban shark fin soup has had very little influence on consumers of the popular dish, according to restaurant operators.
Two of the three major shark fin soup restaurants in the Bangkok area said the campaign has had no effect on their income, while one restaurant at a five-star hotel said that only a few customers had declined to eat the soup, citing the campaign as the reason.
"Some of the guests just said no. They said they had heard of the campaign and wanted to be part of it," said a chef from China Town Restaurant at the Dusit Thani Hotel who asked not to be named.
However, the chef said the number of people eating the soup has not gone down significantly. The main consumers are Japanese who have yet to respond to the campaign: "They [Japanese] might not have heard about it," she said.
WildAid, an international conservation group last Thursday launched its latest study on the global shark-finning crisis, including statistics in Thai seas. Every year, the study said, 100 million sharks are finned worldwide, mostly to supply restaurants for shark fin soup.
WildAid is canvassing the Thai consumer to stop eating shark fin soup in order to halt demand for shark finning and call on the government to conduct a master plan for a sustainable shark fishery.
At Hoochalarm Scalar, an established shark-fin soup restaurant in the Siam Centre area, with 20 years in the business, the number of customers has gone down slightly. But that is due to the economic recession, not the campaign, the restaurant's director, Somchai Kanchana, told The Nation.
"The campaign is not an issue for our customers. They love the soup," he said.
Somchai said his customer number is currently at 300 per day. Almost all are politicians, actors or businessmen. The dish is served at a price of Bt800 to Bt5,000, depending on the shark fin's grade (or size), he added.
Particularly defiant in the face of the campaign is a popular Japanese food franchise, Oishi Restaurant.
Oishi has just launched three shark fin dishes as the featured "food of the month" on Thursdays and Fridays at all its six branches in Bangkok.
"The promotion has increased our reservation bookings by 20 per cent," said Phitchaya Wichanond of the restaurant's call centre.
A shark-fin enthusiast who asked not to be named said she had heard something about the campaign but had not changed her mind about eating the soup.
"All kinds of meat we eat come from killing," she said. "What's the difference?"
Another shark-fin lover said there had been some discussion over the ban among his Chinese family members. Finally, they decided it should be a matter of personal choice whether or not to eat the soup, he said.
"But people my age do not love eating the soup so much, maybe because we know more about the cruelty that's required to get the fin," he said.
Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs will today bring up the issue for discussion, seeking to push for a master plan for a sustainable shark fishery in Thai waters.
The committee is one of three senate committees that have expressed interest in the shark campaign. Another two are the committees on environment and tourism.
BY KAMOL SUKIN and