Sharks. We love ‘em, we fear ‘em, and for an entire week on The Discovery Channel, we even pay homage to them. Yet in recent years, our fascination with these predatory powerhouses have made a disturbing shift from what’s depicted in JAWS to what’s featured in today’s soup du jour. Yes, that’s right folks. We’re talking shark soup.
Shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in Chinese culture, and is generally reserved for special occasions and events. According to statistics provided by the Wild Aid and the Chinese Wildlife Association, 83 percent of Chinese participants have consumed shark fin soup at some point in time.
In China, the texture of food is just as important to the dining experience as the meal itself. Often described as “chewy,” “tasteless” and “gelatinous” by most, shark fin soup nonetheless proves palatable to the Chinese majority.
Within recent years, financial prosperity in the Far East has lead to the consumption of shark fin soup in vast quantities; placing an unsustainable and crippling demand on shark populations. As a result, this widely-coveted commodity has seen a spike in the heinous practice known as “shark finning,” which refers to the removal and retention of shark fins. Believe it or not, shark fins are among the most expensive seafood products worldwide, and are commonly retailed at $400 per kilogram.
Many sharks are still alive during this process, and are often discarded back into the ocean once their fins have been removed. This debilitating extraction severely hinders a shark’s mobility, and they eventually succumb to their long-suffering injuries, or at the mercy of other predators.
To reduce the inhumanity of finning practices, several countries now require the removal of fins to be monitored at the closest port. Unfortunately, such protocol proves too tedious for corrupt fishermen and/or profiteers who prefer to fin at sea, as it increases both their profitability and the number of sharks harvested.
While the practice of finning is prohibited in the U.S., the act of eating it is apparently alright. There are countless restaurants across the nation that continue to serve shark fin soup (a list of these restaurants are made available on the Animal Welfare Institute’s official website, AwiOnline.org).
Shockingly, an average bowl of shark fin soup in the U.S. is priced anywhere between $70 to $150, and for those “prized” species (particularly the whale and basking sharks), a single fin can easily fetch $10,000 to $20,000. What’s even worse? Shark meat is barely fit for human consumption! Shark fins are known to contain high levels of mercury, and are advised against by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
By the end of Shark Week’s seven-day course, over 1,848,000 sharks will be mercilessly slaughtered. This figure translates into three sharks that are killed every second. It’s strange, really, how we base our perception of sharks as the sea-trolling predators with a penchant for human blood. Who would have known that it was us humans who were the true predators, after all?
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