Coral Seafood Restaurant owner Norman Ho’s problem with shark’s fin soup is not that he’s worried about sharks. It’s that making a flavourful soup out of the tasteless fins is an elaborate, costly process.
The power of shark’s fin soup to convey status is enormous, and it pervades Chinese society.
Serving shark’s fin soup at auspicious events has been a tradition for centuries among elites, but the Chinese bridal and restaurant industries have turned it into an essential element of any middle-class wedding or important business meal. As China’s economy expands, more people are putting the soup on the menu.
But activists in Asia and elsewhere are challenging the tradition, citing statistics that show the shark-fin trade may kill as many as 73 million sharks a year. It is possibly the single-largest threat to sharks worldwide, along with the incidental catch of sharks in global tuna and swordfish fisheries.
Washington state enacted a law last month to ban the sale and trade of shark fins. Hawaii, Guam and the Marianas Islands have enacted shark-fin bans.
Even in China, a shift has begun. This spring, a lawmaker in the National People’s Congress introduced legislation that would ban shark fins, and in Hong Kong, a cadre of students has begun to advocate for sharks within both academia and social circles.
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