Monday, April 15, 2013


The Shark Fin Project. Sharks have intrigued and awed humans since our first encounters with them thousands of years ago. Only now, with the risk of extinction for several species do we begin to realize their fragility, one that seems out of character with the awesome predatory image embossed on our psyches from childhood. However much maligned in our culture from movies such as Jaws, many cultures have long revered sharks and recognized their importance to our oceans. Unfortunately for sharks, the endgame is near due to an accelerated destruction of species worldwide to feed a growing shark fin trade in China. The market forces at hand could render many species of sharks commercially extinct in the next 5 years. Hong Kong is one of the two major ports of entry for over 50 percent of the shark fins worldwide, the other is Taipei, Taiwan. Most shark fins traded through either port end up in bowls of shark fin soup served as a traditional dish at weddings and other culturally significant events in mainland China. Although there is a growing opposition to shark fin soup in Hong Kong, consumption of shark fin soup in mainland China continues to grow, largely to suit the whimsy of a burgeoning middle class. On the mainland it is more difficult to change cultural mores surrounding shark fin soup. And the communist government’s tolerance of efforts in Hong Kong to shift cultural mores against shark fin soup is unknown. As long as commerce in shark fins is not disrupted, the government may allow a certain level of dissent and it is possible that shifting perceptions about shark finning will slowly migrate to the mainland. But time is running out for more than a dozen species of sharks already and 5 species of sharks and rays were just listed in March at the CITES meeting in Bangkok. My plan is to visit Hong Kong this summer and investigate the issues (economic, cultural, ecological) surrounding the shark fin trade there and publish the results of my findings. I have connections there who will assist me in my research, especially in understanding cultural perceptions surrounding shark finning and shark fin soup consumption. Please support my project by making a contribution! Thank You!