Shark Fin: Tak Nak

This post in inspired by Geekchic, for choosing NOT to serve shark fin soup at her wedding dinner. In her words:

The way they farm for the fins is inhumane. Only brainless fucked-up egoistic folks still serve it. And, yes that is a generalization, that is a sweeping comment and I’m making no apologies for it.

Unfortunately, people like Geek are far and few. Shark fin soup is so deeply ingrained in our culture as a dish that gives you "face".

Is this due to ignorance on the way shark fins are harvested? At this day and age, my guess would be no.

Shark meat is often too low-value compared to the more lucrative species (like tuna) so 95-99% of the sharks are thrown back into the ocean, after their fins are cut off, to conserve hold space on the fishing vessels. Sometimes, they are killed "just for fun".

It is a widely known fact that t
he most efficient way of obtaining shark fins is to first catch a shark, then haul it on deck, then have a team of crewmen swiftly slice off the fins with razor-sharp machetes, then toss the rest of the fish, still alive, back in the sea. The shark sinks to the bottom of the ocean, and there slowly drowns to its death.

Some popular remarks regarding the debate about eating shark fin soup are:

"The restaurant already got the supply mah. Might as well order lor."
Ordering a bowl of shark fin soup means there is a demand for it. The restaurant will then further buy to supply for the demand. And the endless cycle continues.

"Think about the poor fishermen who will be out of a job if the shark fin industry were to collapse."
Indian fishermen only earn
$6 per pound of shark fin. A bowl of soup can cost $100 in a Hong Kong restaurant.

"Sharks are a danger in the ocean. Better off in my tummy than out in the open water mauling people."
10-15 people are killed by sharks each year. But in comparison, over 100 million sharks perish at the hands of humans annually. The chances of being attacked by a shark are less than being struck by lightning.

"It is already on the table. Shouldn't waste it lah."
Eating shark fin soup shows you agree with and support the industry.

"Yiyer, you don't give face."
I give face to the sharks, that are cruelly killed so you can get fatter.

Ok, last remark was bordering on bitchy. (Hee.)

My next question is on the taste and nutritional value of shark fin. Is it like a bear's paw that has medicinal value? (Note: the "medicinal value" of the bear's paw is actually the bear's saliva, as the bear is always licking its paws - so you are actually eating bear cooties.) Or monkey brains that are eaten as medicine?

Fact: Shark's fin provides gelatinous bulk in shark fin soup, but it has no taste – the soup has to be flavoured with chicken or other "superior" stock for it to be tasty.

Fact: The procession method for shark's fin include drying, bleaching and drying again. All nutritional value and taste are stripped.

Here's my conclusion:
Sharks are cruelly killed for their fins, for a bowl of soup that has no nutritional or independent taste value. To date, there is no scientific evidence of its medicinal efficacy.

So why are we still eating it?

Further reading: