Consequence of eating shark fin soup in Taiwan

by Ping-Tse, Lee

Knowing about shark fin
Shark fin soup is a Chinese traditional delicacy frequently served at special occasions such as weddings as a sign of wealth and affluence. In the past, Chinese Emperors loved it because it was unusual, savory and difficult to cook. Today, it’s popular with the Chinese population for the very same reasons. It symbolizes the high status. Shark fin soup is made with shark fin and some boiled chicken or some other foods that can help raise the flavor of soup, but shark fin is actually quite tasteless on its own.

Sharks have special cartilages, and cartilage's main components are chondrocytes (cartilage producing cells), which can producing collagen fibers, an elastic protein called elastin that can let skin return to its original shape after being pinched, and ground substance that is rich in proteoglycan, a protein with glycosaminoglycan chains. Shark cartilage, in some types of traditional medicine, is thought to be helpful in many treatments, such as psoriasis, arthritis, rheumatism, acne, eczema, allergies and the some cancers.

However, because shark meat has a lesser value, the hunters just throw the fin-less and still living sharks into the sea again to be able to get more fins. When those sharks returned to the ocean, they are unable to move and either die from suffocation or are consumed by other sharks or animals. This can hurt the entire environment, because sharks are the top of the food chain, so when they become lesser, the whole food chain will just break. Thus the influence of hunting the sharks is much more serious than people thought.
Consequence of eating shark fin soup in Taiwan - Nutrition for the Worldimage source

Consequence of fishing shark fins
If shark fin can hurt the environment so much, then why do people keep hunting them? Because of the value! Shark fin is among the most expensive seafood products in the world, it can be sold for more than $700 U.S. dollars per kilogram. The world trade of shark fin approximately exceeds 10,000 tonnes every year. Those fins are usually exported in legal networks to Taiwan, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore and other rich countries in Asia. In fact, Taiwan is the centre of the shark fin industry in the world. Almost 70% of the world’s shark fins ending up there. It improve Taiwanese economy 5% a year. Also, for the shark fin soup, it can easily cost $100 U.S. dollars per bowl. How crazy is that!!

It can make a lot of money, but it also can hurt the environment very much. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization found out that 856,000 tons of shark and their cousins, such as skates and rays, were caught in 2003. That is triple the quantity 50 years before, as shark fin soup has caught on as an Asian status symbol. The scary thing is that number is still increasing. According to a 2009 Wild Aid report, the crash and extinction of sharks would cause widespread ecological disruption with ensuing massive economic losses and decreased food security. [Editor's Note: Sharks, as predators, help keep the balance and health of other fish populations. Sharks, also like other predators, have a low rate of reproduction. The fish they eat may lay thousands of eggs per year, but a shark won't even become pregnant for many years after birth, and will only have a few pups each season. Presently, fisheries are taking approximately 100,000,000 sharks from the oceans each year. This is an unsustainable amount, and many locales in the world are reporting an absence of sharks (where they used to be common), and also major changes to the ecosystems where the sharks were once a normal part of the wildlife. ---J. Learn]

Also, eating shark fin might not help our body, and it actually can hurt our body. Because Shark is the predator, they eat a lot of fishes. Every small fish has the small amount of poisonous mercury. Therefore, as a result, those small amount of mercury in each small fishes went into the shark's body, and that became a big amount of mercury. Some scientists found out that the amount of mercury in shark's body is about 42 times larger than the safe amount of mercury in human body. Too much of Mercury can cause kidney failure, birth defects, and central nervous system disorders. Shark meat is also not suitable for a pregnant women.

Some people are saying that one individual effort doesn't change much, but I think that is terrible idea. It's like If I throw the garbage in the street every day, it won't hurt the world too, and somebody still will pick up for me. But this is just non-responsible behavior. If we really want to stop the shark-slaughtering, the best solution is stop eating shark fin soup. In fact, some people will say that this can hurt the economy very much, but if we can change the industry into the eco-tourism and diving in shark sites, then we don't need to kill the sharks anymore. In conclusion, people should do everything to protect our environment, but we need to do in a educated, constructive way. we need to be respect and understand the cultural impact those countries will have to face. Again, eating shark fin soup might be good for human body, but it really doesn't help in the long run. We just destroy our own selves.

BETTER ENVIRONMENT=LONGER LIFE

Consequence of eating shark fin soup in Taiwan - Nutrition for the World
image source


Resources:http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/efc/efc_smm/smm_conservation.asp

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/12/10/pip.shark.finning/index.html

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