Economical with the truth

  • Letters
  • Sunday, 5 Aug 2007

RECENT campaigns asking the public not to take shark-fins soup is based on cultural and personal bias. 

The campaign ignored the fact that 20 countries take up 80% of the world’s annual sharks harvest (with Britain, Spain, US and many European countries among the top). 

Most sharks are harvested for their meat but often also as a by-catch in fishing.  

Shark meat and oil is a valuable commodity commonly consumed in many countries.  

The campaign targeting only shark-fins soup consumers ignores this fact and will not save the endangered species, as the sharks will continue to be consumed in those countries. 

An aspect of the Anti-fins Campaign showed “shocking” film footage of “live finning” of sharks. “Live finning” referred to the alleged removal of only the shark fins by fishermen and throwing the bleeding carcass back into the sea. This way of bleeding the fish to death, it is claimed, is a most cruel way of harvesting a species. 

What animal species that we consume does not involve bleeding it to death? 

Further, contrary to popular belief, shark cartilage is not harvested solely for shark fins soup. In fact, shark cartilage is used extensively, especially in USA, as a supplement and alternative treatment for cancer. 

Also, the supplement used for knee pains called glucoseamine and chondroitin contain shark cartilage (fins). A cursory glance on the Internet reveals hundreds of sites selling this shark supplement. 

The Porbeagle shark and the Spiny dogfish, currently, said to be endangered, have been harvested for generations by fishermen in temperate waters (Britain and US) and it is this over-harvesting that is causing their rapid decline. The meat from these sharks is prized in fish & chips shops.  

The former Secretary-General of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora of which Malaysia is a signatory) Eugene Lapointe pointed out that the “Save the Shark” Campaign was launched ignoring facts and that “the anti-soup activists lace their campaign rhetoric aimed at an ill-informed Western audience with innuendoes that play to the anti-Asian sentiment and their audience’s ignorance of Asian cultural practices.” 

Indeed, there are many species of commercial fishes that are more endangered than sharks. Codfish, wild Salmon, sturgeon are some of these endangered species. 

Malaysia’s cannot afford to use selective information or a “holier than thou” attitude to highlight environmental concerns.