When All Else Fails, Blame Racism

Alex Hofford has been busy exposing the shark fin trade in Hong Kong and the SCMP has picked up on the story.

The practice of “harvesting” the fins is generally thought to consist of catching the sharks, slicing off the fins and then throwing the still-alive crippled and bleeding animal back into the ocean to die. Shark fin is popular because there are perceived health benefits.  The fin itself has no taste; whatever flavor there is comes from what it’s served in, i.e. “superior soup.”  It is seen as an essential dish to include at celebration dinners.  It was a big deal for my ex-wife, who would often express a craving for it, and we’d end up somewhere that charged north of US$25 for a bowl (at places like Fook Lam Moon you could spend hundreds on this).

The SCMP reports today that the Sharks Fin Merchant Association in Hong Kong says that their industry has seen its revenue drop by 50% in the past year and that perhaps as many as 30% of the shops that sell sharks fin have closed in the past year – but I’m going to venture a guess that most of these closed due to gentrification in Sheung Wan and ridiculous rent increases.

The SFMA makes no attempt to defend the trade or the product (at least not in the SCMP article).  Nothing about health, nothing about taste.  Nope.  What they do is say that the drop in their business is due to an “anti-Chinese conspiracy.”  Seriously.

Shark fin traders in Hong Kong blasted an “anti-Chinese conspiracy” by environmentalists, whose constant bombardment of criticism they say is killing their business.

“The whole industry has recorded a [sales] decrease of 50 per cent on last year,” Shark Fin Trade Merchants Association chairman Ho Siu-chai said. “[The decline] is mainly due to the omnipresent advocacy by green groups.”

Ho said his industry was being targeted by an anti-Chinese conspiracy led by “Western” environmental groups. “They always blame us for cutting off fins and dumping carcasses at sea. This is not true and is distorted,” he said.

The strong hostility to the trade has seen about 30 per cent of shark fin shops close down in recent years, Ho estimated, adding that some traders had been forced to sell other dried seafood, such as abalone and scallops.

“It’s getting more difficult to do business in the city because of the conservationists,” Kwong said. “That’s why traders now import less.”

I love that last bit, that they’ve been “forced” to sell other products.  This is an argument?

My take on things is that to eliminate the trade, one should not go after the traders.  As long as there is demand, people will find a way to satisfy that demand.  One needs to eliminate the demand. If that’s not possible, then the fins should only be collected in a sustainable manner – which to me says that the shark is not over-fished, killed in a humane manner, and that the entire shark be used, as there is demand for shark meat, shark skin, shark cartilage and so on.

I don’t think the demand for sharks fin will go away.  But with an estimated one-third of all shark species now on the brink of extinction, if something doesn’t change, shark fin will one day be a thing of the past, for all the wrong reasons.

UPDATE: A friend sent me the link for this video, Gordon Ramsay “Shark Bait”

“Gordon Ramsay loves sharks, and this passion leads him on his most personal mission yet – to investigate the controversial dish, shark fin soup.  What Gordon discovers on his journey leads him to campaign against the brutal and destructive shark fishing industry.”