Shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy typically served during Chinese wedding receptions has lately become a subject of controversy. Many animal lovers and animal rights groups like WildAid and Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) have been actively lobbying to ban sales and consumption of shark fins, due to reasons of cruelty. Some supermarket chains like FairPrice and Cold Storage have already stop stocking shark fin products on their shelves. Restaurants in Shangri-La and Fairmount Singapore hotels have also stopped serving shark fin soup to customers. Other hotels like Capella Singapore (Ria Tan, 2012) also gives wedding couples one night free accommodation to encourage a shark fin-free banquet.
Importance and relevance of shark fin ban
One of the main reasons for the active lobbying to ban shark fining is due to its cruelty. Fins of sharks are cut and sharks are then thrown back into sea. The sharks will eventually die slowly and painfully due to excessive blood loss and suffocation. This raises ethics concerns.
Another reason for calls to ban shark fining is because sharks actually play an important role in regulating and maintaining the ecosystem and the species diversity. They achieve this by preying on the weaker species. Without sharks, larger predatory fish like groupers will increase, which will lead to the decrease in herbivore fishes. Algae will then expand at the expense of coral reefs. Evidently, the loss of sharks will affect the whole ecosystem and food chain.
FairPrice, Cold Storage, Shangri-La and Fullerton Hotel are all famous names in Singapore. Their public display of banning shark fin could serve as influential models for other hotels, restaurants and supermarkets to follow suit. Capella Singapore’s strategy of using incentives like free accommodation is also very useful to encourage Singaporeans pro-conservation effort. After all, most people tend to be driven by short term gains; short term thinking bias.
As a matter of fact, shark fin has very little nutritional values, and contains a high level of mercury (Hg Tech, 2012). As such, it would seem like banning shark fin has very minimal impact on humans’ diet. Unfortunately, the issue of shark fin ban is not so straightforward. To some, shark fin soup is just a bowl of tasteless and nutrition-less soup that involves the killing of innocent sharks. However to Chinese, shark fin soup represents status, wealth, value, a form of respect one has for their guests. To change the Chinese’s long standing and deep rooted attitude towards shark fin soup will not be so easy. After all, fighting emotions with facts is quite futile. Considering the social cultural factor, I would not expect a dramatic shift in local’s behavioural choice very soon. Perhaps the best solution for this thorny issue would be governmental intervention, like banning or setting limits to sales of shark fin.