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Tradition no defense for shark fin harvest

By David Friesen Source:Global Times Published: 2012-9-6 18:40:03

The fact that 100 million yuan ($16 million) is spent daily in Beijing on shark fins makes me both extremely angry and terribly sad. But the remarks from the China Aquatic Association (CAA) suggesting not eating shark fins would be a waste and defending it on the grounds of Chinese tradition are even more appalling and idiotic.

Let's firstly deal with the claim that shark fin harvesting should continue based on tradition. There's no doubting that shark fins have been eaten in China or used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, but this doesn't therefore mean it should continue. Arguing that something is good merely because it is part of tradition is a logical fallacy.

Arguing that shark fin consumption should continue because it is tradition is akin to Japan's argument that its slaughter of dolphins and whales is acceptable because it is tradition. Cannibalism is something that has been practiced by a number of tribes worldwide over long periods as a tradition, but that doesn't mean we want to continue to allow people to eat each other. Ending such so-called traditions represents our progress as a civilization.

If the CAA's argument was that shark fin soup is tradition so it should continue, but it conceded it is extremely harmful to the environment and it needs to find a more sustainable alternative, then it would be more reasonable. Instead, the association opted to make the ludicrous claim that not cutting off fins from live sharks is wasteful.

Of course, how silly of us. There must be 100 million yuan worth of sharks available daily just waiting to get rid of their fins. The head-slamming stupidity of the idea that shark fins are consumed just because a few sharks get caught in nets and they are leftovers is clear for all to see.

The shark fin trade globally has been heavily linked to organized crime due to the profits available and the fact that illegal methods are often used to obtain shark fins worldwide.

To satisfy the obscene demand for this product, tens of millions of sharks are hauled onto boats using vast lines and nets. They then have their fins hacked off, only to be thrown back in the water to slowly bleed to death.

This is the very antithesis of waste management.

If we destroy the ocean's apex predators we not only affect the entire ocean ecosystem, but potentially harm stocks of other fish we are trying to sustain for food purposes.

On top of all this, shark fins are a pointless food. Their nutritional value is minimal and studies have shown no medicinal benefits from their consumption. In fact, frequent consumption of shark fins could be dangerous.

Studies have shown that shark cartilage, which fins are made of, contains concentrations of mercury and the neurotoxin Beta-methylamino-L-alanine, or BMAA, which has been linked to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

In every single aspect, shark fin consumption is a bad choice. But it appears that, despite efforts to curb its sales and celebrities taking a stand against it, the relentless destruction of these important animals is set to continue in the name of Chinese tradition.

Posted in: Twocents-Opinion