The Online Citizen

The Shark Fin debate

February 28
13:33 2012

~by: Ng Yi Shu~

~picture: Cheong Yaoming~

Two NGOs for shark conservation, Shark Savers and Project: FIN, protested against Singapore’s unwillingness to ban shark fin products, at the Animal Welfare Symposium last Saturday. 

Project: FIN founder Jennifer Lee quoting a WildAid letter in her question to Minister K Shanmugam and the panel at the end of the symposium, protested against trade interests behind the ‘marine life experts’ Hank Jenkins and Dr. Giam Choo Hoo, exposing their conflicts of interest with wildlife trade.
Mr Jenkins and Dr Giam had spoken at a recent seminar organised by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, emphasising that 'shark's fin soup is culturally discriminating'. 
The WildAid letter said: 
“Having known Dr. Giam for some time, I don't think he would claim to be a "marine life expert." He is a former vet who was in charge of the bureaucratic aspects of wildlife import and export in Singapore. I believe he still serves on the board of a reptile skin trading company and has served on a CITES committee where he was a tireless advocate against restrictions or controls on trade in threatened and endangered species. 
"You would need to ask him who pays his expenses and consultancy now. Whenever I’ve asked him, he wouldn't tell.
"To my knowledge, Dr. Giam has never conducted any original research on sharks of any kind nor has he visited any of the shark fisheries to which he refers. At one point, I offered for my colleague, who had done such research, to make him better informed on sharks, and his response was, "Oh no, she knows too much.
"Similarly, Hank Jenkins is not a "marine life expert." I believe his expertise is in crocodile farming. He too has been a strong advocate for trade in wildlife and endangered species, such as "farming" tigers.
They are, of course, like the shark fin traders they represent, entitled to their opinions, but to suggest they are experts in sharks or marine life is misleading.”
Professor Steve Oakley from Shark Savers Malaysia felt that his presentation at ISEAS was misquoted by the newspapers. 
Presenting a summary of his findings to Mr Shanmugam, Professor Oakley questioned Dr Giam Choo Hoo's representation of Singapore on the CITES board as there were conflicting interests. 
The main reasons tackling the illegal wildlife trade is ineffective may be due to the fact that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), being a political organisation which uses economic trade as a tool to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, has conflicting trade and conservation interests, Professor Oakley noted. 
“Isn’t this like asking the mass murderer what kind of sentence he should get?”, a participant at the symposium asked.
Professor Oakley believes that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) should be the appropriate organisation to deal with conservation. 
In a conversation with TOC, Patricia Lorenz and Jennifer Lee of the NGOs Shark Savers and Project: FIN explained why they were fighting for their cause. 
In their news release titled ‘Feedback from Shark Savers and Project: FIN’, they said that current consumption of shark is unsustainable, threatening shark populations and ocean health by tipping over the ecological scales and destroying the fragile food chain. Sharks are critically important to the health of our oceans and depletion of shark populations has been to shown to negatively impact valuable fisheries and marine habitats. They believe that rampant overfishing of sharks is primarily driven by consumer demand for highly valuable fins – which has led to all 14 of shark species most prevalent in the trade to be classified by the IUCN as near extinction. 
In their recommendations, Shark Savers and Project: FIN pressed for the expansion of legislation, namely for the Endangered Species Act to include the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species as it is the most comprehensive, objective global approach in evaluating conservation status. This move will also mean that products from the 14 species of shark which are most impacted by the shark fin trade will be regulated and banned.
Shark Savers and Project: FIN also quoted apparent health risks in the consumption of shark fin as one of the main reasons AVA should look into the banning of fins. 
A study published by University of Miami found high concentrations of BMAA (β-Methylamino-L-alanine) in shark fins, a neurotoxin linked to neurodegenerative diseases in humans including Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig Disease (ALS). The study suggests that consumption of shark fin soup and cartilage pills may pose a significant health risk for degenerative brain diseases.
BMAA was first linked to neurodegenerative diseases in Guam, which resulted in the progressive loss of structure and function of neurons.
The shark study found a similar range and even higher BMAA in the fins tested. The new study found levels of BMAA which overlapped the levels measured in the brains of Alzheimer's and ALS victims. Surprisingly, this level fits with the BMAA levels in fruit bats examined in Guam, where ingestion of fruit bats had a link to the severe ALS/Parkinsonism dementia that afflicted many people in Guam.
  • Josh

    Its time…
    Stop shark finning , impose bans on shark fin trade. 
    It's time people understand that eating  a bowl of soup , which contains a tasteless , pointless ingredient (shark fin ) , will have serious consequences on the Marine environment.
    The Shark fin trade is not only pointless but is also barbaric. 
    I hope that very soon , the Governments wake up and realise the money made from Shark fin , will not be worth the damage done to our marine environment.
    Please stop this trade now.

  • Ayam

    if u dont like sharkfin dont eat it and stop asking tjose who like it to refrained from it. Its a free world do what u think its right. Please spent more time in helping the poor instead

  • http://worldorder worldorder

    Firstly, I think the anti-shark fins propoganda is over-hyped and over-drived. Some control maybe warranted but total ban is overboard.
    To call for a ban on shark fins is to ask people who enjoy it to cut off their food culture. If this is the case then alot of other foods also need to call for a ban. For example; Foire Gras (goose liver), whaling or whale culling, cavier etc….
    Geese were forced feed to produce a larger (fatty) liver in the shortest period to meet high demand to eat it.
    Whaling is also used to produce cosmetics and health produce….so do we ban selling of cosmetics ??
    Whale culling is an old culture practiced in one the Nordic country where young man slaughtered whales to prove and promote himself to manhood. why no protest over it ??
    Sturgeon fishes are slaughtered for their eggs. How come nobody protest againt it ??
    Sharks are known to be free of illness and therefore some health benefits are offered just like any other food be it fish, meat or veggies.
    Lets live and allow some natural order takes it course.

  • dennis chan

    brainwash by western against eastern culture

  • Patricia

    Saying that it is a question of west against east is completely nonsensical, as there are at least as many Chinese shark conservationists and activists as there are Non-Chinese ones. Yao Ming clearly a Chinese who knows what he is talking about.
    As for a free world, this is also a incorrect assumption. There is no such thing as free trade, and this why there are bans on the trade of certain materials, such as ivory, and high taxes on others, such as cigarettes. There are also local ban on products such as chewing gum, and all these bans and taxes restrict the consumer. Some of these bans have been imposed to protect society, others to protect our natural heritag. Both are equally important, thus it is time to out ego aside and think on behalf of the global population and natural welbeing.

  • wl

    It is the "in the face" kind of tactics telling people to stop eating sharks fins that irks many people. Instead of aggressively telling people not to eat and insisting on legislative means, a more effective way, if it is indeed true that consumption of sharks fins is the cause of depletion of the sharks, some kind of a quota system can be implemented. Many people forgets that outright banning may result in many people who depend on this trade losing their livelihood overnight. And it is not just the fishermen.

  • Eugenes

    The Nihonjins' have managed to earn a place in history by destroying the whales.
    Hope that the Chinese do not stand next to Nihonjins by clearing the tigers, rhinos, sunbears and sharks from this mother earth.

  • Shark lover

    Ask Jennifer to walk the talk first. Let her proved her love for sharks is reciprocated by her staying in a tank full of them.

  • little trumpet

    why not ban all meat? all lives are valuable.

  • iEATsharphuckleberryFIN

    please do not stopped me from eatin 1 of my most favourite dishes..its ain't cheap..only can afford to eat it FREE durin weddin diner which i had to fork out ONE HUNDRED singapoor dollar$ per miss jennifer would you STOPPED puttin on makeup to plastic your face? ow was makeup comestic bein made? do u know or dont one to know?

  • Captain Planet

    For the people who are likening shark's fin to meat and pate etc, please note that while I see where you are coming from, your argument is flawed. Geese etc are not endangered species. Sharks are…. So this is not about east versus west but about conserving ou seas for the future…. The seas are being fished beyond long term sustainability and sharks are an essential part of marine sustainability. Not liken this to a east west issue is surely ignorant of the bigger picture.

  • Captain Planet

    "To liken this" I mean.
    If we can find a sustainable way to eat shark's fin, then perhaps yes, we can go on doing so but research points to the fact that we are not enjoying it at a sustainable level!

  • shark

    this artilce reminds me that i have not eaten shark fin soup for quite some time, should go tomorrow. yummy !!!

  • Richard Mee Tia Kok aka Mr Wan

    If true as a lky supporter, i hope he din taken too many shark fins.

    More ten thousand years!

  • kah Na Sai

    People eat shark fin also your business, what else you think you are? God? Please lah…. don't you know how to "Mind your own business"?

  • Denzuko1

    Well, I guess Jenkin and Dr Giam would also not oppose to Japanese hunting for whales because it is their culture to eat whales.

  • Samantha

    Save the sharks! Your grandchildren will thank you.

  • Name (required)

    I think it is not difficult not to eat shark fin.There are some other nice soups.Maybe we can have  'shark fin' soup.

  • I luv sharks

    A few more sharks died because of the campaign. It whipped up one's memory of a delicious bowl of shark fins soup with crab meats. I am heading to a Thai restaurant this weekend. Yummy.

  • Sharks’ fins are yummy food

    Whether we are harming the eco-system by eating sharks is one thing.  But these commie-like fanatical activitists are so repulsive that I'll decide to continue eating.

  • Charles Darwin

    All these conservation ideas are just hogwash and scare mongering. Look at the list of extinct animals ( Did the extinction of any of them lead to any earth shattering event? No, the ecosystem will just evolve around them So, it really makes no difference if they are gone. It won't stop evolution.

  • john riemann soong

    what is wrong with some people. imitation shark's fin soup is just as good, if not tastier.
    i have no sympathy for those making a livelihood in a sinful trade. shark finners are like heroin dealers. do people complain about the heroin ban because it deprives drug dealers of their livelihood?

  • john riemann soong

    Charles Darwin: as a University of Virginia student in biochemistry, physics and biology, I do think you are quite wrong. Sharks are "keystone" species — they hold many ecosystems together and wiping them out results in massive damage to the ecosystem built around them. Do you know what a keystone species is? Oh maybe you should go back and study what they are.

  • middle

    "A study published by University of Miami found high concentrations of BMAA (β-Methylamino-L-alanine) in shark fins, a neurotoxin linked to neurodegenerative diseases in humans including Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig Disease (ALS). The study suggests that consumption of shark fin soup and cartilage pills may pose a significant health risk for degenerative brain diseases."
    With the above-mentioned finding, who still wants to eat shark fin?

  • iEATviagra

    The study suggests that consumption of shark fin soup and cartilage pills may pose a significant health risk for degenerative brain diseases."
    The study suggests that consumption of viagra and cartilage pills may pose a significant health risk for degenerative erection diseases."
    so what do you suggest? removed your d i ck?

  • #itsonlyfood

    Honestly, am I the only one who just wants to eat shark meat? You can chop the fins off and throw them away, I have no use for them at all.

  • yam

    Yao Ming is a Chinese who very much wanted to be a any moh.he bring his wife to America to give birth so his children can be ang moh Kia. So when ang moh say no shark fin he blindly follow.get your fact right.

  • Eastern oppose for Eastern sake

    Must set the shark fin question in exam so that children will be forced (was going to say interested) to know more about it.

  • Kampong boy

    Will shark farming resolve the issues?

  • Be careful

    @Kampong boy
    I don't even eat farmed Salmon, mine got to be wild, because farmers use all sorts of chemicals. You should also only buy organic free range chicken.  These 2 are well known for bad farming practices.

  • AMTK

    ang mo say cannot eat shark fins, some chinese just blindly follow and don't eat..
    last time, ang mo say must pray to jesus, also some chinese just blindly follow..
    those chinese… no spine…

  • lim

    We haven't even banned cigarettes. It will take some time to reach sharks fins. I would prefer the AVA continues focussing on ensuring our food safety than the safety of food.

  • idislikeshark

    "Honestly, am I the only one who just wants to eat shark meat? You can chop the fins off and throw them away, I have no use for them at all."
    Hey, don't throw shark fins away.You can sell them to Chinese.They can cook an expensive soup.When it is expensive, Chinese people may think the fins must be very good to their body. 

  • Middle

    Do u wear Chinese constume or Ang Mo style of dress?

  • iAMahMENG

    Middle2 March 2012

    Do u wear Chinese constume or Ang Mo style of dress?
    do you know the cost of makin 1 cheongsom or not? and without a doubt your shirt has no BUTTONs…
    when you asked a 1 with brain lark…
    than again you must be 1 who leave your home with a club aND LIONSKIN CLOTHIN…eh mr flinestone?


  • Middle

    So you want to follow Ang Mo style of  dress.
    Why do many Chinese speak with each other in English?

  • iAMahMENG

    Middle2 March 2012

    So you want to follow Ang Mo style of  dress.
    Why do many Chinese speak with each other in English?
    why do kileng also speak ang mor?
    gandhi spoke to bhutto in tagalor perhaps?
    who teach fred flinstone to yappayippy do?
    yoda perhaps?


  • yam

    Captain planet dog not endangered species so can I have my dog meat or I must your permission before I can eat are such a hypocrite only you have the right to choose.

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  • Royston

    you can read some foreign influence in the reasons listed by sharksfin groups. first they said the fins have no taste, so no point in eating something tasteless. Typical western mindset. yet their local countrpart took it wholly. then independent thinking will tell you a lot of food has no taste if not for the gravy and codiment. in fact some tasted badly without the gravy. plan b – Sharks have high mercury level. but the envionmentallists ignored the fact that many fishes have higher mercury too, marlin, tuna. cod fish has some mercury. No one fight for their ban because they are food in the west and economic interest present. in fact sharkfin soup is a "rare" meal, you do not eat often and the fin is so diluted into soup, the risk is much lower than fishes you eat for the meat and at breakfast or dinner time. beside food safety is in food control, authority need to test the product, and set a period of control, like usa beef. The environmentalists know they do not have popular support, so they now go afterthe govrnment and retailers. but these actions could invite resentment and trigger future boycott or non-support in other environmntalist campaigns.

  • SeeTheForestForTheTrees

    Some of the so-called "big" Ang Moh conservationists are nothing but hypocrites. Look at Gordon Ramsay, you think he really cares??? Getting all hyped on the Shark Fin Cause, but in reality he doesn't give a shit about the environment blatantly supporting the fossil fuel industry ( which does more envronmental damage than a couple of disappearing fish.
    It's not even an East-West culture thing with him. He's probably only in the sharks fin cause because being in the F&B industry, the extra publicity will help him generate enough $ so that he can buy another 2 or 3 Bentley's to increase his carbon footprint.
    In his own words, I'll be damned if I'm gonna be listening to this ****ing Ang Moh. Gimme me the soup and he can just **** off back to his kitchen.

  • Bustera
  • cc chia

    Sharks as a species, are not endangered fish. Most sharks are also caught together with other fish by local fishermen in their nets or hooks.
    Instead of trying to prevent Asian people from eating our sharks fin, why don't these "pro-shark activists" also stop tuna fishing, veal production and goose foie gras comsumption?

  • johnny tan

    Trying to stop the capture of sharks for food or fins is like trying to prevent fishermen from catching fish.
    Also, many Asian people are unaware that majority of factory produced fishballs and fishcake are actually made from shark meat.

  • Janet

    Why is this article about sharks fin in TOC?
    We should be spending our energy keeping the fascist dictatorship in Singapore at bay, instead of wasting our time worrying about sharks and their fins.
    Incidentally, I shall still continue eating sharks (used in my favourite fish balls, fish cake, lor mee and fish and chips) and their fins, and I shall only consider stopping if the pro-shark hypocrites stop eating veal, lobsters, foie gras, caviar and tuna sashima.

  • cc chia

    The truth of the matter is that all types of fish including sharks are widely caught throughout the world. This has been going on for thousands of years, and there is no danger of fish or sharks getting endangered or extinct from our catching them for food in Asia.
    <br>However the AngMors have not done such a good job in their conservation effort, but have overfished the North Atlantic Sawfish (shark) for food until it is now in the CITES schedule 1, meaning that it is the only shark species that is endangered.
    <br> In Asia, we have lots of sharks and none of them are endangered, although we widely consume their meat in commercially prepared fish cake and fish balls. We do not like to waste our food, therefore some of us also eat sharks fin mostly in soup on special occasions. What's wrong with that?
    <br> Why do the AngMor shark lovers want to interfere with what Asians want to eat? They should just mind their own business and concentrate on their own unsustainable shark consumption and the extremely cruel practices involved in the preparation and eating of veal, caviar, foie gras and lobsters. 

  • Kevin Law

    Read this shocking interview with Dr Giam Choo Hoo on his appalling attitude towards shark conservation:
    If you think Dr Giam is no longer fit to serve on CITES, vote to remove him:

  • Kevin Law

    Decide for yourself why Dr Giam promotes shark fin soup.
    In 2007, Juliet Eilperin the author travelled to Hong Kong to interview Charlie LIM of the Shark Fin and Marine Products Association for her book “Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks”. After she entered his office, she describes the setting as follows:
    “I am surrounded by the shark fin trade heavy weights of Hong Kong. Lim, the secretary of Hong Kong’s Sharkfin and Marine Products Association, has convened a special meeting in his organizations conference room for my benefit, so he and his colleagues can explain what exactly they do for a living. Giam has come in from Singapore …”
    When interviewed for the book, Dr GIAM formally introduced himself as: “a representative of the shark fin industry in Singapore”.

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