Shark Fin Soup

Shark Fin Soup – What’s The Scoop?

  • So what’s the big deal about shark fin soup?
  • Does a bowl of soup really pose such a threat to the survival of sharks?

Well, yes, it does. Read on and find out why…

A bowl of shark fin soup
Shark fins for sale

Shark fin soup is a soup or broth of Chinese origin made with shark fin and flavoured with chicken or some other stock.

The fin itself has very little flavour and it is used primarily to add texture to the dish and because it is seen as a delicacy.

It is often served to guests at important events such as weddings and business banquets.

Shark fin soup is not cheap – it can easily cost upwards of $100 per bowl, this fact has helped ensure a steady supply of fins as fishermen and middlemen (sometimes associated with mafia-type gangs) slaughter sharks wherever they can find them in order to satisfy the market.

With the sudden increase in prosperity in the Far East, shark fin soup is being consumed in vast quantities, placing an unsustainable and crippling demand on shark populations.

Shark fin can be bought either frozen or dried, with the dried variety being available either shredded or as whole fins. The fins are often treated with hydrogen peroxide in order to make their color more appealing to consumers.

The soup is often claimed to have health benefits, such as increasing your appetite, improving your kidneys, lungs and bones.

However there is no evidence to support these claims and the reality is that shark meat is barely fit for human consumption.

It has a very high level of mercury and the United States Environmental protection agency advises women and young children to stay clear of it. Click here to see the levels of mercury found in shark compared to other fish.

Recently removed shark fins.
Shark fin being dried on the deck.

A survey in 2006 by Wild Aid and the Chinese Wildlife Association showed that 35% of participants had consumed shark fin soup in the previous year. This equates to an immense number of sharks being taken from the ocean.

Sharks take anything from 7 to over 20 years to reach maturity, meaning that it takes populations a long time to recover; the current demand for their fins makes it impossible for populations to return to previous levels.

Sharks are top predators – when they are removed from the ocean the entire eco-system suffers.

Sharks have been around for 400 million years. Are we going to let them die out because of ignorance about the origins of what we eat and because of human arrogance?

Would this still be going on if the soup was made with tiger paws instead of shark fins?

Act now and find out what you can do to help save sharks.

Shark fin soup: everything is wasted except the fins.
A dead shark with its fins removed – the “left-overs” from a bowl of soup.

Protest shirt

Let’s Take Shark Fin Soup Off The Menu!

Do you live in an area where there are restaurants that serve shark fin soup? Do you wish they would take it off the menu?

Well people across the world are networking and taking steps to encourage restaurant owners to do just that.

On this page I am posting the contact details of people who are interested in coordinating and contacting with others in their local area who want to see the end of shark fin soup.

So if you would like to get in touch with other people who want to save sharks, send me your email address and location and I will post it here.

What action should you take?

Before organizing any protest, contact the restaurant owners/managers (in person if possible) and tell them about shark finning – ask them if they would be prepared to take shark fin soup off the menu.

Give them a few days to think about it and either visit them again or call back. If they decide to continue selling shark fin soup this is when you can start with the protests. All protests should be peaceful and respectful.

Contacts – email these people if you live in their area and want to get shark fin soup off the menu!


Australian Anti-Shark Finning Alliance (TAASFA) –


Nassau – (Alyson)


Ontario (Markham) – Campaign to ban shark fins in Markham.

Toronoto – (Stefanie)

Toronto – (Chuck)

Vancouver – (Lydia)

Victoria, BC – (Dave)

Dominican Republic

Santo Domingo – (Michael)


Hessen (also available to network with people in other parts of the country) – (Ivo)


Sue – (also volunteer co-ordinator for Sea Shepherd)

John – (Wexford/Dublin/East Coast)


Kuala Lumpur – (chermayne)

Netherlands (Ester) (Dominique)

South Africa:

Pat Dickens (all of South Africa) –

Umkomaas Aliwal Shoal, Scottburgh – (Andrew)

Johannesburg – (Sarah)

South Korea (Keith)

Taiwan (Andy)

United States:

Los Angeles, California – (Kevin)

Sacramento, California – (Ryan)

San Diego, California – (Will)

San Francisco, California – (Bruce)

San Francisco (Bay Area), California – (Jim)

Santa Barbara, California – (Jonathan)

Boca Raton – Florida – (Alyson)

Tampa, Florida – (John)

Pensacola, Florida – (Amanda)

West Palm Beach, Florida – (Melody)

Atlanta, Georgia – (Todd)

Illinois – (Gianna)

Fall River, Massachusetts – (Danielle)

Wellesley, Massachusetts – (Ingo)

Detroit, Michigan – (Tiffany)

St. Louis, Missouri – (Theresa)

New Jersey – (Jessica)

New York – (Lori)

Seattle, Washington – (Jen)

Dallas, Texas – (Anna)

UK – England

Bristol – (Sophie)

London – (Dave)

London – (Jonny)

London – (Roro)

London – (Andrew)

North East – (Chris).

Southwest England (also west Wales)- (Angharad)

Weston Super Mare – (Sophie)

UK – Scotland

Edinburgh & Glasgow – (Hew)

Edinburgh – (Ross)

Inverness – (Andrew)

Some suggestions.

Some owners will be more easily persuaded than others. Those that aren’t convinced by the moral and environmental arguments will need to be convinced purely from an economic point of view.

This is not easy – but there are two things that may help them change their minds. The first is protests outside their restaurant, which should consist of talking to potential customers and/or handing out leaflets.

The second is that their restaurant will be listed on a website showing “good” and “bad” restaurants, ie those that serve or don’t serve shark fin soup.

This works best on a local level, so you would need to set up a website to do it (although I can list the good/bad restaurants here if you don’t have the time or resources to set up your own site).

For a very good example of the kind of website I mean check out Shark Free Santa Barbara. It is a big motivator for owners to know that they are going to be getting publicity – but it will either be good or bad publicity, depending on them.

On previous protests, owners have occassionally asked for money from activists to print new menus (with shark fin soup removed). Whether or not you agree to do this is entirely up to you.

Most activists will not be inclined to do this for various reasons. You may point out that the cost of printing new menus will be offset by the extra customers they will (hopefully) get from not serving shark fin soup – this ties in with being listed on a website under the “good” category.

Maybe the owner and the activists could contact a local newspaper and get an article written about the restaurant and the fact that they have made an environmentally responsible decision and taken shark fin soup off the menu. Free publicity for the restaurant and the cause!

Another suggestion has been that they could put stickers over the shark fin soup item in the menu saying something like “This item removed to help preserve our ocean environment”.

Please let me know if you have any more suggestions, and good luck.

Sharks fin soup

The Truth About Shark Fin Soup

People who are involved in the shark fin trade or who enjoy eating shark fin soup often argue that shark fins should not be banned.

The usual arguments offered in favour of consuming shark fin soup are itemised below, along with the reasons why these arguments do not hold water.

1. Sharks are harmful to humans. We are better off without them.

Although occassionally someone does get injured or killed by a shark, the number who do is actually incredibly small. You are sixteen times more likely to be hit by lightning than to be bitten by a shark.

Although the number of human deaths caused by shark attacks is very small, these incidents are widely reported in the press due to their sensational and unusual nature.

Sharks also have an image problem, partly because of films like Jaws, but also because they don’t have the “cutesy” factor that animals like dolphins and pandas do. Also – contrary to popular belief – only a very few species of shark ever attack humans – the others are totally harmless.

The idea that we might be “better off without sharks” betrays a detachment from nature and lack of understanding of how it works. In the natural world, all elements of an ecosystem are interconnected, and depend on each other in one way or another.

Start taking away the “bricks” that hold up that ecosystem, and sooner or later it is going to collapse. This is particularly true in the case of top predators, such as most species of shark.

Top predators act as the caretakers of their environment, picking off the weak and sick of smaller species, helping to ensure strong and healthy populations and a balanced ecosystem.

2. We live on the land. Who cares what happens in the oceans?

Although we live on land, we are not detached from it. 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by ocean. Oceans contain 99% of the Earth’s living space and a huge amount of biodiversity. Scientists believe that there are approximately 240,000 marine species.

We also rely on the oceans for much of our food. If we do not practice sustainable fishing methods and manage marine resources responsibly, we will leave an impoverished ocean for future generations.

The fact that sharks have existed for 400 million years is testament to their success as a top predator and an ocean caretaker. If sharks are doing such a great job looking after the oceans maybe we should make sure that they are able to continue doing it!

3. If you ban the trade in shark fins, it will just lead to a black market trade.

While it is possible that some black market trade in shark fins may continue, as it has with ivory, it is extremely unlikely that the scale of trade after a ban would be as high as it is now.

While large numbers of people are willing to risk punishment for the consumption of drugs, it is very doubtful that they would be willing to do this for the “pleasure” of a menu choice.

Despite people’s best efforts, there will always be those who will stop at nothing for material gain, but the response of responsible society should be to take all the measures it can to stamp out activities that are detrimental to other species and the planet.

A black market in slavery still exists in some parts of the world – does that mean it should not have been abolished?

4. Only rich people can afford shark fin soup so it’s not such a big problem.

The increase in wealth of the Chinese middle class means that ever greater numbers of Chinese can afford to eat shark fin soup.

The demand for shark fins has increased massively in line with China’s increased prosperity. Sharks take 7 to 14 years to reach maturity and stocks therefore take a long time to recover from overfishing.

And just a few bowls of shark fin soup accounts for one dead shark, so it doesn’t take much imagination to see the devastating impact that this menu choice is having on shark populations.

5. It’s hypocritical to ban shark fin soup and not other types of meat like chickens and cows.

Vegetarians and vegans would agree that no type of animal should be eaten. However the shark finning issue is different in a number of ways. Firstly, finning means that the main part of the shark is wasted, only the fins are used.

On top of this the act of finning a shark while the creature is still alive is barbaric and cruel and is a practice that would be illegal in most countries’ slaughterhouses were it to be practised on a farm animal (for example if a lamb’s legs were cut off and it were left to bleed to death in a crate).

Another big difference is that sharks are not farmed animals, they are part of the marine ecosystem, and so many of them are being killed that their very existence as a species is being brought into doubt.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 143 shark species (where there is sufficient data to determine conservation status) are at high risk of extinction either now or in the near future. That’s over 55% of shark species.

6. Shark fin soup is a part of Chinese culture and shouldn’t be interfered with.

It is true that shark fin soup dates back to China’s Ming dynasty. However it was traditionally only consumed by a very exclusive and wealthy minority.

To say that it forms a part of traditional culture for the majority of Chinese is disingenuous, as most Chinese were not in a financial position to ever consume this dish. It is only in the last few decades that consumption has risen rapidly.

For example, according to Wild Aid “The number of consumers who can afford, or have access to shark fin, has risen from a few million in the ’80s to more than 300 million today.”

It is also ironic that those who supposedly have a cultural interest in shark fin soup often display no concern for the conservation status of sharks, which after all would need to be maintained at sustainable levels in order to continue the supply of shark fins for the dish.

What’s more the shark fins used in shark fin soup come from all over the world, which means this is not just a Chinese or Asian issue.

As well as threatening the survival of sharks in all the world’s oceans, the irresponsible consumption of shark fin soup threatens other businesses such as dive centres which require a sustainable approach to marine life.

7. Banning shark fins is bad for business.

We would rather that restaurants offered alternatives to shark fin soup on their menus. There are plenty of other things to eat.

A business that is founded on an unsustainably sourced resource is doomed to fail sooner or later.

Businesses which are concerned that a shark fin ban may affect their income should start to look for alternative revenue sources before a ban comes into place.

8. Why don’t you ban fishing for the whole shark?

For many species a ban on continued shark fishing would be beneficial in order to allow species to recover from years of irresponsible overfishing.

However a ban on the trade in shark fins would be effective in reducing supply and demand, as the main reason for recent falls in shark populations is the demand for shark fins.

9. Why are you picking on the Chinese culture when shark cartilage is also used in health food capsules?

Shark cartilage is used in shark cartilage capsules. Claims have been made that shark cartilage helps support joint mobility and repair, however none of these claims have been substantiated.

What’s more there are alternatives available which do not contain shark cartilage. Many ocean activists are also against the use of shark fins in capsules and so-called health treatments.

10. Shark fin soup is good for you.

Some people have claimed that shark fin soup has health benefits. These claims are unfounded – in fact shark has a very high level of mercury and the United States Environmental protection agency advises women and young children to avoid it.

What’s more, shark fins are often treated with hydrogen peroxide in order to make their color more appealing to consumers. Not really the type of thing you should be eating if you are concerned about your health.