Celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have hooked up with the UK shark and marine conservation charity Bite-Back to help launch its ‘Hacked Off!’ campaign that aims to make Britain the first country in the world to ban the controversial dish, shark fin soup from restaurants.
The nationwide campaign has been developed in response to estimates that 36 million sharks are slaughtered every year, many simply for their fins that are used as a title ingredient in shark fin soup. The charity’s campaign will now target over 65 identified UK restaurants and work to educate and inspire them to stop selling the dish.
Likened to the lucrative business of hunting elephants for their tusks many sharks are caught and, while still alive, have their fins hacked off before the body is dumped overboard.
Chef, restaurateur and television personality, Gordon Ramsay said: “It is hard to believe that sharks are still being killed solely for their fins — an incredibly cruel and immoral practice. By removing shark fin soup from menus we can work towards a goal that eliminates the need to hunt and kill these awesome creatures.”
Since the 1950s some shark populations have fallen by 90% leaving conservation groups and scientists fearful for the survival of some species.
Campaign director for Bite-Back, Graham Buckingham, said: “The decline in shark numbers worldwide has a direct correlation to increased global demand for shark fin soup. This campaign is a chance for Britain to lead the world in the conservation of the ocean’s apex predator.”
The charity expects to leverage extra support for its ‘Hacked Off’ campaign with a 45 second commercial — Fin, Help End the Horror — created by the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather. The film, which exposes the gory truth about fishermen removing fins from live sharks, has been banned from television for being too graphic but can be viewed on YouTube.
The Bite-Back website features a Google map of Britain that pinpoints every restaurant known to be selling shark fin soup. Bite-Back’s ‘Hacked Off!’ campaign will call on thousands of its supporters to systematically invite every identified restaurant in the country selling shark fin soup to put conservation before commerce and remove the dish from menus.
Chef and Channel 4 Fish Fighter Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “It’s madness to think that more than 65 restaurants in Britain are selling shark fin soup. It’s a travesty for the oceans. This campaign sends a clear message to the world that shark fin soup is no longer fashionable or ethical. I urge everyone to play a part in making Britain shark fin-free.”
While the sale of shark fin soup is not illegal, the charity is keen for the public to understand the impact shark fishing has on the marine environment.
Bite-Back says that sharks help maintain the health and abundance of all other marine species and that, if removed from the food web, the seas can no longer sustain current fish populations. This has prompted some scientists to predict the oceans could end up being populated predominately by jellyfish and other invertebrates.
Graham Buckingham said: “This is an issue that affects everyone. People forget that the oceans produce more than half of the planet’s oxygen and absorb around a quarter of all man-made CO2. Shark fishing boats are the marine equivalent of bulldozers that operate in the rainforests of the world.”
Click here to download the Bite-Back Hacked Off icon (PDF 1.9MB)