Mutilated for a Meal

Shark fin soup has been popular in Asia for many years, with one bowl carrying a 3-digit price tag. While many countries have laws to protect vulnerable sharks from the brutal industry that robs them of their fins to produce this expensive "delicacy," the species is still at risk. An estimated 73 million sharks are "finned" yearly, many while still alive. Their helpless bodies are typically thrown back into the water, where they endure long, painful deaths from suffocation, blood loss or predation.

Most people do not realize that their local Chinese restaurant may be supporting this cruelty by selling shark fin soup. With that in mind, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has launched a national campaign to stop restaurants from selling shark fin products. AWI began its campaign in the Washington Metro Area, collaborating with 10 animal welfare and conservation organizations to target restaurants in the vicinity that currently serve shark fin soup. We encourage readers to check with their local restaurants and to notify us of those carrying shark fin products.

Meanwhile, the issue continues to gain media attention. In March, National People's Congress Deputy and Peking University President Xu Hongzhi said China should remove shark fin dishes from banquet menus before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Chinese officials traditionally honor important guests with meals that feature rare or exotic dishes, including items such as monkey brains and the infamous shark fin soup. "Serving shark fin to foreign guests during the Olympic Games could greatly hurt China's national image, and officials should start to remove the dish from the dining table right now," he told the Xinhua news agency.

As one of the ocean's top predators, sharks have been cursed with the reputation of being ruthless killers. In reality, these majestic prehistoric animals are the ultimate ocean caretakers. Their decline can devastate ecosystems, as revealed in a recent Science article on how the phenomenon of the species' dropping population numbers has wreaked havoc on scallop beds. There is a strong risk of similar effects to trophic structures if shark populations continue to decrease.

Please visit our website or contact us for the list of Washington, D.C. restaurants selling shark fin soup.