British restaurant goers ordering shark fin soup are highly likely to be consuming endangered shark species without knowing, according to Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation.
The UK charity is advising diners to avoid all shark fin dishes after DNA research by Exeter University¹ discovered shark fins from endangered scalloped hammerhead and threatened shortfin mako sharks among generically-labelled shark fin products on sale at an Asian food wholesaler.
Once the fins are removed from the shark, dehydrated and packaged it is extremely difficult to know which species they came from.
Campaign director at Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation, Graham Buckingham, said: “We’re making huge strides in shark conservation but the continued appearance of shark fin soup on menus confounds us. Out of the 10 fins analysed by the university, two came from species that are either endangered or threatened. Clearly anyone ordering shark fin soup, or buying the ingredient, could be contributing to the extinction of rare and majestic sharks. It’s time that British restaurants ditched this highly controversial dish.”
In recent years shark fins have become one of the most valuable seafood items in the world. Demand for shark fin soup is a primary reason for the slaughter of around 73 million sharks by global fishing fleets every year. Bite-Back likens the hunting of sharks for fins to a marine ‘gold rush’. The rarity of the shark determines the price of its fins.
Wildlife expert and TV presenter Steve Backshall is the patron of Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation. He said: “Right now one in four shark species is listed as endangered or threatened. It’s clear that demand for shark fin soup could wipe out many of the ocean’s most remarkable and fascinating predators. This DNA research is all the evidence you need to know that it’s simply not okay to eat shark fin soup.”
Since 2004 Bite-Back’s campaign has helped prompt an 81% decline in the number of restaurants serving shark fin soup in the UK including the country’s only Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant, Hakkasan. However there are still at least a dozen establishments across the country serving the controversial dish.
The charity is campaigning to rid Britain of all shark products by 2022. Become a member today.
¹ Reference: Scientific Reports Journal “Using DNA Barcoding to Investigate Patterns of Species Utilisation in UK Shark Products Reveals Threatened Species on Sale.” Published on 31 January.