Campaign against shark’s fin soup based on sad facts

By Khatijah Abdullah

I was amazed when I read Cheah Hooi Giam’s “Economical with the Truth” (Sunday Star, Aug 5).

His statement that the campaign asking the public not to consume shark’s fin soup is based on cultural and personal bias is extremely strange.

Strange for the fact that there is no culture in this country that stops people from taking the soup; and what personal gain can anyone achieve by influencing others not to consume shark’s fin soup?

Such campaigns were started based on the alarming facts below:
Fact 1: It is estimated that 100 million sharks are killed annually;
Fact 2: A recent estimate of sharks killed in the fin trade alone stands at 73% of the total number of sharks killed;
Fact 3: The fin is considered the most valuable part of a shark, selling for more that US$700 per kg (compared with US$10 per kg for its meat!)
Fact 4: Spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks are caught in Europe, and their meat is used in the fish and chip industry, their fins are sent to Asia for use in shark’s fin soup.

Live finning is not a myth! It is true and is happening simply because fisherman want to maximise their catch for the day by disposing of shark bodies in the sea and keeping room on their boat for fins.

Malaysia is a signatory to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) but not a member of IWMC (International Wildlife Management Conservation Fund).

Why do we want to preserve sharks?
a) Sharks stand as a top predator in the food chain. Their depletion will undoubtedly disturb the ecosystem which also includes humans.
b) Sharks are one of the creatures that have a very slow reproduction system. Hammerhead sharks, only reproduce once a year with a gestation period of 10-12 months.
d) Fins contain mercury. Thai health officials reported in 2001 that local shark’s fin soup contained mercury about 42 times above the safe level.
I am very sure that our local NGOs would be very happy to start other conservation campaigns as recommended by Cheah in due time but for now, it’s the sharks that need our utmost attention because it has already been proven that their survival will in turn affect our lives, given the time.

Source: 8/8/07 The Star – Letters