By SL Wong

NEWB_0003 WWF SharknSave Our Seafood Backdrop FA2

Shark’s fin soup – are you still eating it? Why?

Sadly, the demand for shark’s fin soup is leading the alarming decline of shark numbers. One-third of shark species are close to extinction because of commercial fisheries. 1

Malaysia is culpable in this. Malaysia is the world’s third- largest shark’s fin importer in volume. Malaysia is also the world’s ninth-largest shark producer. 2

We need to reverse this. The loss of sharks affects the wider ecosystem and ultimately, us.

That’s why MNS Marine is joining hands with other NGOs in the ‘My Fin My Life’ anti-shark’s fin campaign.

Because fins really are best on sharks.

Who are we?

The Malaysian Nature Society has been working towards the protection of Malaysia’s natural heritage since 1940. MNS Marine (Marine Special Interest Group under the Selangor Branch) is made up of a passionate group of volunteers who work towards conserving Malaysia’s marine ecosystem. Our goal is to share our love for the marine environment with all who care to learn and protect Malaysia’s marine heritage through education and awareness programmes with adults, children and island communities.

Why sharks?

Sharks sit at the top of the food chain in the sea. This means they keep the populations of other fish in check and healthy. This trickles all the way down to other marine creatures and plants, keeping the whole ecosystem in balance. And Malaysia’s marine ecosystem is among the world’s richest.

But when sharks start disappearing, the ecosystem becomes unstable. This affects not just precious marine habitats but us humans.

Firstly, the loss of sharks impacts commercial fisheries. Malaysians are the biggest consumers of seafood in Southeast Asia. Already, catches of large fish have declined by 90%. This affects not just consumers, but fishermen’s livelihoods and coastal communities for whom fish is a key and traditional food source.

Secondly, the loss of sharks impacts Malaysia’s tourism sector. Malaysia has 63 different species of sharks who play their part in keeping our underwater treasures amazing. This draws tourists from far and wide to snorkel and dive in our seas. This provides jobs for Malaysians and income to the country.

Are sharks in danger?

Yes! At least 100 million sharks are estimated killed every year for their fins. That is about 96 sharks every 30 seconds.

According to FAO, Malaysia, along with Thailand and Japan, “may be among the world’s largest” shark’s fin consumers. Also, unlike China and Hong Kong, which is seeing a decline in shark’s fin consumption, Malaysia shows “no indications of a shark fin market contraction”.

Between 2000 and 2011, Malaysia recorded an average capture production of 23,412 tonnes per year of sharks and rays (though not necessarily specifically for their fins).

In addition, Malaysia imported on average, 1,172 tonnes of shark’s fin, largely small, low-value fins, mainly from Thailand. According to WWF 3, about 84% of imports were consumed locally, a figure that increased 54% per year.

Changes in fishing technology, increased economic development and sharks’ slow reproductive rate have combined to devastate shark numbers.

Sharks are also indirectly captured as bycatch, which is wasteful. Illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries target sharks to retain the fins and discard the meat, which is inhumane. Other threats are habitat destruction, pollution and climate change.

What is ‘My Fin My Life’?

MNS Marine ran one of Malaysia’s first anti-shark’s fin soup campaigns in 2007-2008, titled ‘Fins – Best on Sharks’. It was tough to get people and organisations to sign on then, but we saw some success, including a pledges not to consume shark’s fin soup by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, hotels and businesses.

Awareness about sharks and shark’s fin consumption has also been on our marine awareness training programmes since 2003.

This year, we are supporting ‘My Fin My Life’. Its aim is to reverse the shark decline by getting businesses, governments and Malaysians to remove shark-fin soup from menus. The campaign runs from January – July 2016.

It is led by WWF and its partners are MNS Marine, Reef Check, SSI (Scuba Schools International) and the SSPA (Sabah Shark Protection Association).

It focuses on 3 urban centres: Kota Kinabalu, Penang and the Klang Valley, where there will be activities galore throughout the campaign period.

Campaign objectives:
1. To sensitise 20,000 restaurants to phase-out shark-fin soup from menus.

2. To engage 1,000,000 Malaysians to support the call for ‘no shark-fin soup’.

3. To commit 500 businesses to remove shark-fin soup from menu or dining.

What YOU can do

For our forefathers, serving shark’s fin soup was to show off one’s wealth and generosity. Times have changed. Shouldn’t we evolve with the times and more importantly, with the knowledge? So:

• Refuse the next bowl of shark’s fin soup offered to you and explain to your friends and family why you decided to do so. Make a pledge (website coming up).

• Commit your organisation to NOT serving shark’s fin soup at functions and get them to make a pledge (website coming up).

• Commit your organisation to NOT serving shark’s fin soup at functions and get them to make a pledge (website coming up).

• Getting married or celebrating a big birthday? Serve an alternative to shark’s fin soup.

• Spread the word online. #myfinmylife on Twitter and Facebook and download campaign materials like campaign logos, information kits, etc. from https://www.facebook.com/groups/mnsmarinegroup.selangorbranch/ (Go to Files)

• Join our activities

Feb 27 & 28 Feb
March 12 April/May June 3–6

Kota Kinabalu My Fin My Life event (Suria Mall)

Kuala Lumpur My Fin My Life event (to be confirmed)

Raptor Watch: Marine SIG Shark Booth (Port Dickson)

Film screening: ‘Racing Extinction’ (MNS HQ, KL)

World Oceans Day: Marine Awareness Programme with a Shark Focus (in partnership with and sponsorship from SSI) (Pulau Tenggol)

(latest information available in MNS Pencinta Alam newsletter and MNS Marine Facebook https://www .facebook.com/groups/mnsmarinegroup.selangorbranch/)

MNS Open Day (June 5) at Taman Botani Negara Shah Alam

Our activities are for MNS members, but it’s easy to sign up for only RM70 a year (RM80 for families) – you can also participate in a host of other activities and do your part for conservation! To join, email membership@mns.org.my or go to https://www.mns.my/subscription/.

For more information, go online:

 

Footnotes:

  1. Endangered Species International. The End of the Super Predator? 2011. Endangered Species International, Inc. <http://www.endangeredspeciesinternational.org/superpredator.html&gt;
  2. Dent, F. & Clarke, S. 2015. State of the global market for shark products. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 590. Rome, FAO. 187 pp. <http://sharkyear.com/2015/fao-report-state-of-the-global-market- for-shark-products.html>
  3. WWF. Shark Fact Sheet. 2015

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