Shark fin soup was once a delicacy in Asian nations reserved for the upper class, but in recent years, has become more readily available to both upper and middle classes. Now common at weddings, banquets, and business meetings, China has emerged as a nation with the largest market for shark fin sales.
Unfortunately, sharks have had to pay the price for this growing demand. Estimates suggest that 26 to 73 million sharks are killed each year in the shark fin trade, a brutal practice where many sharks are finned alive and left to bleed to death once dumped overboard. Shark finning is also a wasteful practice, as only one-to-five percent of the shark is used while the rest is wasted.
But, the demand for shark fins in China could actually be dropping, according to a new report by WildAid. Shark fin vendors have reported an 82 percent decline in sales in Guangzhou, the hub of the shark fin trade, and 85 percent of surveyed Chinese consumers say they gave up shark fin soup within the past three years. Additionally, 19 out of 20 surveyed Beijing restaurants say they've seen a "significant decline in shark fin consumption" over the past few years, says the report.
"A decline in demand means there will be less effort put forth by fishermen to seek-out sharks for their fins," says Oceana responsible fishing campaign director Dominique Cano-Stocco. "Less fins in soup means more fins on sharks."
Oceana and other conservation groups have launched extensive public awareness campaigns in recent years, displaying messages about the brutality behind shark finning in public settings such as transit stations, airports, and on TV commercials. In China, broad public awareness campaigns, coupled with the Chinese government's ban on shark fin soup at state banquets in 2012 and the resulting media coverage, have had a huge impact on changing the public's opinion on shark fin soup. According to WildAid, of the 85 percent of Chinese consumers who had recently given up shark fin soup, two-thirds of them said it was because of these campaigns.
Shark fins. (Photo: Oceana/LX)