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Nothing Wrong with Sharkfin?

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This article appeared in the main newspaper in Singapore. The author, Dr. Giam Choo Hoo is well known in conservation circles as a proponent of wildlife consumption.

 

You can send feedback and comments to the paper at: stforum@sph.com.sg

 

Please include your full name, address and contact number if you write in.

 

The Straits Times 1 Dec 06

Shark Finning: Shark’s fin soup-eat without guilt

By Giam Choo Hoo, For The Straits Times

 

REPORTS which attribute shark decimation to the consumption of shark’s fin

soup show that Western activists have succeeded in convincing the public

that sharks are killed for their fins only, and that all fins are cruelly

cut off while the sharks are still alive.

 

They paint a distorted picture. There is no reason to be ashamed when

ordering the popular soup at a restaurant.

 

Sharks are caught in virtually all parts of the world - by fishermen in

poor countries and by large fishing fleets from developed countries. No

state has banned shark fishing and only a few have set limits in certain

areas. Indeed, some members of the European Union are catching, consuming

and trading sharks on a big scale.

 

The Shark Alliance points out that ‘Spain, Portugal, the UK and France are

among the world’s top 20 shark-fishing nations that are responsible for 80

per cent of the global catch’.

 

Despite the strongly declared objectives of the Fisheries Commission in

Brussels, there are very few restrictions on fishing for sharks in

European waters.

 

The meat of dogfishes, smoothhounds, catsharks, skates and rays is in high

demand by European consumers. The situation in Canada and the United

States is similar: The blue shark is sought after as a sport fish while

the porbeagle, mako and spiny dogfish are part of the commercial fishery.

Other species are caught, either targeted or as by-catch that is

unintentional or incidental, during fishing operations.

 

It is a serious problem in most European countries. Fishing fleets

targeting tuna and swordfish take substantial numbers of high-sea sharks .

Nonetheless, sharks are not as endangered as other wildlife, for example,

the sturgeon, which is sought after for caviar.

 

There are over 400 species of sharks, and to claim they are on the verge

of extinction is to make a sweeping but inaccurate generalisation

equivalent to claiming that all birds are endangered.

 

The UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife

Fauna and Flora (CITES) lists only three sharks in its Appendix II. The

consumption and trade of species in this category is subject to

certification. The three are the basking shark, the great white shark and

the whale shark.

 

The remaining 397 shark species are not classified at all and can be

freely traded and caught.

 

Fins are by-products of the fishing industry. Though they are valuable,

sharks are not normally killed for their fins. A fishing fleet

specialising in catching sharks only for their fins would quickly go out

of business.

 

The perception that it is common practice to kill sharks for only their

fins - and to cut them off whilst the sharks are still alive - is wrong.

No one denies that such cruelty exists. The footage of ‘live-finning’ has

been shown all over the world.

 

However, these sensational pictures obscure the fact that many within the

industry are against such practices. The vast majority of fins in the

market are taken from sharks after their death. This is the preliminary

finding of a review made with the assistance of shark experts, fishermen,

captains of big fishing ships and representatives of fishery departments,

the fishing industry, fish markets and fishing ports.

 

The barbaric practice of ‘live-finning’ is done by some long-line fishing

boats, principally targeting tuna. When they get the less valuable sharks

in their hooks, they cut the fins and throw the sharks into the water to

make room for tuna. This deplorable practice is outlawed in many

countries.

 

The anti-fin group has misrepresented the facts. By aggressively flooding

print, TV and Internet media with selective images, they have portrayed an

untruth: that all fins are derived from ‘live-finning’. Their aim? They

want shark’s fin soup to be shunned.

 

The truth is this: Sharks will continue to be caught and killed on a wide

scale by the more organised and sophisticated fishing nations. Targeting

shark’s fin soup will not stop this accidental catch.

 

The fins from these catches will be thrown away or turned into animal feed

and fertilisers if shark’s fin soup is shunned. The practice to salvage

and sell the sharks’ fins gives value to discards from the fishing

industry of the world, benefiting both poor and rich countries .

 

I am not an advocate for greater consumption of shark’s fin soup. I am

saying that it is not a shameful culture.

 

The writer is a member of the Cites Animals Committee and a member of the

Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, England.

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"Fins are by-products of the fishing industry. Though they are valuable,

sharks are not normally killed for their fins. A fishing fleet

specialising in catching sharks only for their fins would quickly go out

of business."

 

Well, i certainly disagree with that one.... Always amazed and disgusted me to see the foreign fishing fleets in palau offload nothing but shark fin from the boats.. you could watch it day after day after day...

 

rarely saw a tuna....

 

i think the most amazing one was a pile of fins about 7 feet high that the customs guys (they were doing some investigations at the time..5 boats one after the other pulled in, no fish, just fins) pulled off a boat one day and put on the dock, all obviously from juveniles... thankfully Palau did start up some measures to put a stop to it not long after that.

 

and when the price per pound of fin exceeds tuna and shark meat by such a large margin?!?!?!?! you can fit a lot more fins on the boat without the rest of the shark.. therefore, more profit.....

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they have a proverb for that in the Netherlands "de pot verwijt de ketel dat ie zwart ziet".

 

It meens here that by saying that there are shark fisheries and shark fisheries problems in the other countries, the problem with finning is in someway diminished. It looks like this member of cites has led his ear to rest with the industry too much. Or maybe its just a bureacrat, that never watches in port.

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i think the most amazing one was a pile of fins about 7 feet high that the customs guys (they were doing some investigations at the time..5 boats one after the other pulled in, no fish, just fins) pulled off a boat one day and put on the dock, all obviously from juveniles... thankfully Palau did start up some measures to put a stop to it not long after that.

 

Saw the same in the harbour in Mauritius about 10 years ago. The only difference is Mauritius didn't do anything to mitigate the problem. The result is that now sharks are pretty much gone, with few exceptions...

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What a idiot to state something like that. :(

 

Abit like saying there is no gobal warming...or there is plenty of trees to cut down or that open ocean bottom trolling does no damage. :)

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This person has been saying things like this for years. He reflects these views at Cites meetings, and he lobbies for just about every form of animal use. To be fair, he's not the only person being paid to do this, but he's particularly vocal.

 

Unfortunately, he has the ear of people who are ignorant and/ or xenophobic (hence his ability to get these one-sided diatribes published in the Singapore newspaper regularly). He plays the "White people can't tell us what to do" card a lot. I'm sure he's intelligent enough to know better, but it's a useful ploy to misdirect the less intelligent and less well-informed away from the facts.

 

Note his concluding sentence: "I am saying that it is not a shameful culture.", which implies that the sharkfin debate is about shaming Chinese/ Asian culture. This misleading suggestion is intentional, in order to incite a negative emotional response. Note also Dr Giam's attack on "Western activists" in his opening sentence. Again, he's trying to engender hatred.

 

Sadly, many people (including many divers) in Asia fall for this ploy.

 

Please consider taking a moment to write to the newspaper.

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Though i live in Colorado USA, i belong to a singapore dive club. we will be taking action on this to be sure. i will also be there in a few days and do some diging around...but you know...the culture there is incredibly educated and at the same time incredibly resistant to any changes that challenge tradition...even when evidence is overwhelming...a real shame and a loss if you ask me.

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Kells Mum was up in Shanghai last week.

Nows she is here helping us get our shop going cleaning on her hands and knees....har har

 

They took her to a restaurant and they were throwing live frogs on the hotplate :wacko:;)

 

She refused the Shark Fin Soup as well and so did her local hosts as they could see she was deeply offended by it all.

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Giam and his Tung Lok lovin' buddies will always cite CITES as a defense. If it's not on the endangered list then it can't be endangered right? Wonder how many species they missed since 1973? I can't find the stats now but it was a big number.

Thing is Straits Times will probably not print the rebuttals.

 

Wags, when I went to Shenzhen with a group of Gwai Lohs who refused sharks fin on principle, the hosts also said no. But they also spoke in a dialect (hoping all the gringos wouldn't understand) that these people were just being a pain. They were just being 'polite' but they aren't about to change their ways until the government says so, and that cold day in hell is the millenium before that happens.

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If it is a race issue - then it follows that they should be allowed to kill all the sharks they want in Singapore waters, but international opinion should prevail in international waters.

 

Alex

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I just wrote to the Straites Times. We'll see if they publish:

 

Your recent article of 1 Dec 06, “Shark Finning: Shark’s fin soup-eat without guilt†by Giam Choo Hoo, gives a very distorted picture of the impact that shark fining is having on the ocean’s environments and habitats. It is true that many nations catch sharks and consume the whole fish, but it is the practice of solely catching sharks for their fins and returning the rest of the fish to the sea that is causing the greatest impact to shark populations, and therefore the ecosystems that they form part of.

 

 

It is estimated that between 150 and 200 million sharks are caught every year, and the majority are returned, dead or dying, to the sea minus fins because it is immensely more lucrative for any fisherman to fill his boat with only shark fins, rather than the whole fish which would attract considerably less value in the market. Removing an alpha predator in these numbers from any ecosystem will have a dramatic effect on the marine life in these systems. For instance parrot fish might now flourish in a reef system devoid of predators which leads to excessive grazing on coral polyps, which kills the local reef, which then becomes covered with algae, which then has an effect on carbon exchange in the system which has an effect on temperatures and chemical balances etc.

 

I have been SCUBA diving regularly around the world and especially in Asia over the last thirty years, and I am staggered with the reduction of marine life that I have seen over this period. Large marine creatures and especially sharks are completely absent from reefs that only ten years ago were thriving.

 

The extraordinary thing is that this has in part come about because of a marketing distortion around the ‘cultural’ habit of wanting to appear prosperous by eating shark fin soup. It is extraordinary not only because of the amazing success of this marketing, but because of the fact that the shark’s fin is probably the most unhealthy part of the shark to eat in the first place. It is well known that Singaporeans have higher mercury and heavy metal readings than many other nationalities, this is because of the amount of sea food that is eaten here. Interestingly the shark concentrates most of the impurities found in the seas from industrial pollution, in yes, you guessed it, the fins. Mercury and lead ingested into humans are not only responsible for mental aberrations (like wanting to eat shark fin soup?) but also loss of libido. Maybe this is nature’s way of restoring balance?

 

Best regards, Nick Jackson

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If it is a race issue - then it follows that they should be allowed to kill all the sharks they want in Singapore waters, but international opinion should prevail in international waters.

 

Alex

 

Alex, there are 12 sharks in Singapore.... all in Underwater World and protected. :wacko:

 

NickJ, you're a westerner... you should've signed Jackson Lee or better Harry Lee.

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Haha - I was thinking of writing to Harry Lee himself as he is disturbed that Singaporeans are not making enough babies. Now if he thought that Shark Fin Soup was actually contributing to low birth rates ... well there's an idea

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Don't they know that Shark Fin Soup makes ya willy shrink......

 

Good letter there Nick.

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We live in a political world. Singapore politicians (and make no mistake, this guy is a politician) are no more likely to condemn Chinese eating habits than an American President is likely to take steps to cut energy consumption at home. How many Americans were even aware of the Kyoto Accord? Burn as much fossil fuel as you like, eat as much sharkfin as you like. It all adds up to very much the same thing. Sadly.

Why would someone living in Detroit care about climatic change in, say, Australia? He wants air-conditioning, central heating and a big car. Do you blame him?

I wrote a piece once suggesting that by buying Chinese-made products, we were pushing up the price of sharkfin soup. I got fired from the Shark Trust for it. More politics!

http://www.divernet.com/cgi-bin/articles.p...splay&show=

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John

 

Your article makes for interesting reading! Perhaps I could add a rider - 'conservation' starts at home - in Britain for example, our fisheries policies/laws/enforcement and even knowledge bases are utterly SHAMBOLIC. I've dived to record the effects of experimental trawling - incredibly destructive. I've watched scallop dredgers repeatedly dredge one area until it must be nigh on sterile and have written to politicians to ask why they've made the decisions that they so proudly announce as being conservation measures (I'm still waiting for an in depth reply to my last query as apparently the questions needed to be dealt with by the relevant department which is pretty worrying as a decision had been already made).

 

Its no good going on about other parts of the world if your own isn't in order. Whilst global problems need global solutions, none will occur until we have a minimal concensus on the world's last wild food resource and its viability - and this starts at home.

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Intersting reading there John.

 

So basically the world is stuffed... :blink:;)

 

And the corrupt powers to be will not change their ways untill it's physically impossible to go on...then it will be to late anyhow.

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Perhaps I could add a rider - 'conservation' starts at home - in Britain for example, our fisheries policies/laws/enforcement and even knowledge bases are utterly SHAMBOLIC.

 

I'm with you, Paul.

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"And the corrupt powers to be will not change their ways untill it's physically impossible to go on...then it will be to late anyhow."

 

Have you ever read "The Kraken Wakes" by John Wyndham? Pubished in 1953 it is I suspect uncannily accurate of governmental action in the face of extreme adversity - and a very good book to boot!

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The feedback of Singaporeans to Giam's article is found here:

 

Feed on Giam's article

 

From the inane to the insane responses, I'd say by and large, sharks are screwed in Singapore, which also happens to be the 2nd largest trader of sharks fin after Hong Kong. Hmmmm

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