Shark fin soup

Shark fin soup

l=Fish fin|t=|s=鱼翅|j=jyu4 ci3|p=yú chì|w=yü ch4

Shark fin soup (or shark's fin soup) is a Chinese cuisine delicacy since Ming Dynasty, commonly served as part of a Chinese feast, usually at special occasions such as weddings and banquets as a symbol of wealth and prestige. The "finning" of sharks required to make this soup has been highly controversial. Some have called the practice brutal, [cite web|title=The Brutal Business of Shark Finning|accessdaymonth=7 May |accessyear=2008|url=] and it is also named as a primary contributing factor in the global decline of many shark species.cite web|title=Waiter, there’s a shark fin in my soup!|accessdaymonth=7 May|accessyear=2008|url=] China's booming economy has resulted in a large increase in demand for shark fins, and this, combined with the importance of this predator in oceanic ecosystems, has exacerbated the problems that the practice perpetuates.cite web|url=|title=38 Million Sharks Killed for Fins Annually, Experts Estimate|publisher=National Geographic|author=Nicholas Bakalar|date=2006-10-12|accessdaymonth=8 January |accessyear=2007]


Genuine shark fin soup or stew is made with shark fins obtained from any of a variety of shark species. Raw shark fins are processed by first removing the skin, trimming them to shape, and thoroughly drying them. They may be bleached with hydrogen peroxide before drying to make their colour more appealing. Shark fins are the cartilaginous pectoral and dorsal fins of a shark. Sharks' fins are sold in two forms: frozen and dried. Both need to be softened before they can be used to prepare soup. The frozen form is ready to use as it has been prepared and therefore only requires about an hour of soaking. There are two types of the dried form, skinned (shredded) and whole, which require more preparation.cite web|title=Shark's Fin in Chinese Cooking||accessdaymonth=6 January |accessyear=2007|url=]

Shark fins, in common with other costly east Asian delicacies such as Bird's nest soup and sea cucumber, have very little flavor of their own. Their appeal lies more in their texture and their ability to absorb flavors from other soup ingredients, and also for the simple fact of their expense and supposed "rarity", as with many luxury goods.cite web|url=,,1516720,00.html|title=A shark's tale|author=Ken Hom|publisher=The Guardian|date=2005-06-09|accessdaymonth=8 January |accessyear=2006]

There is an imitation version that is usually sold in cans that may be labelled as shark fin soup; it sells for around USD$1.50 per bowl and does not contain shark fins, but is instead made of mung bean vermicelli shaped to resemble shark fins. It is not equivalent to genuine shark fin soup in either texture or colour. It is commonly served in chicken broth, with mushrooms and pork to enhance the texture and taste.


Shark fin soup is a popular delicacy in China, and is eaten in Chinese restaurants around the world.cite web|url=|title=Decimating Shark Population for Some Soup|author=Laura Marquez|publisher=ABC News|date=2006-10-30|accessdaymonth=8 January |accessyear=2007] [cite web|url=|title=Fins for sale|publisher=The Independent|author=Stephen Khan|date=2006-06-25|accessdaymonth=8 January |accessyear=2007] A survey carried out in China in 2006 by WildAid and the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association found that 35% of participants said they had consumed shark fin soup in the last year, while 83% of participants in an online survey conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature, said that they had consumed shark fin soup at some time.cite web|url=|title=WWF Marine Awareness Survey: Seafood consumption|author=|publisher=WWF|date=2005-10-13|accessdaymonth=8 January |accessyear=2007] In Hong Kong restaurants, where the market has traditionally been strong, demand from Hong Kong natives has reportedly dropped, but this has been more than balanced by an increase in demand from the Chinese mainland,cite web|url=|title=Yao Ming unlikely to curb China's shark fin appetite|publisher=Taipei Times|date=2006-05-03|accessdaymonth=8 January |accessyear=2007] as the economic growth of China has put this expensive delicacy within the reach of a growing middle class.cite web|url=|title=Media silent on shark fin soup affair|date=2006-09-01|publisher=The Standard|author=|accessdaymonth=8 January |accessyear=2007] Based on information gathered from the Hong Kong trade in fins, the market is estimated to be growing by 5% a year.cite web|url=|title=Chinese Taste For Endangered Seafood Growing|author=Julie Chao|publisher=Cox News Service|date=2004-05-19|accessdaymonth=8 January |accessyear=2007] The high price of the soup means that is often used as a way to impress guests or at celebrations, 58% of those questioned in the WWF survey said they ate the soup at a celebration or gathering.

A third of all fins imported to Hong Kong come from Europe.cite web|title=Shark fisheries and trade in Europe|publisher=Shark Alliance|accessdaymonth=6 January |accessyear=2007|url=] Spain is by far the largest supplier, providing between 2000 and 5000 metric tonnes a year.cite web|url=|title=EU faces shark fin ban call|publisher=BBC|author=|date=2001-06-25|accessdaymonth=8 January |accessyear=2007] cite web|url=,,1862110,00.html|title= Sharks pay high price as demand for fins soars|author=Ian Sample|publisher=The Guardian|date=2006-08-31|accessdaymonth=8 January |accessyear=2007] Norway supplies 39 metric tonnes, but Britain, France, Portugal and Italy are also major suppliers.cite web|url=|title= Growth in shark fin trade could lead to species extinction|author=Steve Connor|publisher=The Independent|date=2006-08-31|accessdaymonth=8 January |accessyear=2007] Hong Kong handles at least 50% and possibly up to 80% of the world trade in shark fin, with the major suppliers being Europe, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, United States, Yemen, India, Japan, and Mexico.cite web|url=|title=Shark Specialist Group Finning Statement|publisher=IUCN Shark Specialist Group|author=Sarah Fowler and Dr John A Musick|date=2006-06-02|accessdaymonth=8 January |accessyear=2007]


According to wildlife conservationists, much of the trade in sharks' fins is derived from fins cut from living sharks; this process is called finning.cite web|title=Sharks|publisher=WildAid|accessdaymonth=6 January |accessyear=2007|url=] Because shark meat is worth much less, the finless and often still-living sharks are thrown back into the sea to make room on board the ship for more of the valuable fins. When returned to the ocean, the finless sharks, unable to move, either die from suffocation or are consumed by other sharks or animals.

See also

* Cellophane noodles
* Shark cartilage
* Hoi sam
* Bao yu
* Buddha jumps over the wall


Further reading

* Baum J.K., Myers R.A., Kehler D.G., Worm B., Harley S.J., Doherty P.A. (2003) — Collapse and Conservation of Shark Populations in the Northwest Atlantic. "Science", 5605: 389–392.

External links

* [ abc News "Decimating Shark Population for Some Soup"]

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