Call for ban on shark-finning in Thai
The Nation, 9th March
SHARKS around the world, including those
in Thai waters, are threatened with unsustainable exploitation
due to increasing demand for sharkfin soup and indiscriminate
fishing, a wildlife conservation group warned yesterday.
Tens of millions of sharks are killed every
year, with at least 8,000 tonnes of sharkfins shipped to restaurants
around the world, WildAid said.
WildAid spent two years surveying 12 countries,
including the main consuming markets and major shark-fishing
nations, to check the latest status of the shark.
"Fishermen in all countries confirmed
that the shark is hardly found anymore and its size when caught
is getting smaller," WildAid director Peter Knights said.
"In Costa Rica, the shark population
has declined 80 per cent in the past 10 years, while the rate
in North America is as high as 90 per cent in the past 15 years,"
WildAid co-director Steven Galster added.
Growing demand for sharkfins, coupled with
the increasing prosperity of Asian countries, had propelled illegal
shark-finning in 70 to 80 marine parks and conservation areas,
the report said.
WildAid, a non-profit conservation group
based in the United States, launched its report entitled The
End of the Line in Bangkok yesterday as part of its global campaign
to save the shark. The report will be further publicised in Britain,
Malaysia, Hong Kong and the United States.
The campaign in Thailand was backed by
famous local film director MC Chatreechalerm Yukol, an avid diver
with 40 years of experience. "I found fewer sharks during
my diving in the past ten years," the director said.
The WildAid report and investigative footage
show that sharks are often pulled from the water to have their
fins sliced off while they are still alive, and then thrown back
into the ocean to slowly die.
Large indiscriminate fishing operations
have led to a global catch of sharks that now totals over one
million tonnes per year, with virtually no controls on commercial
WildAid and MC Chatreechalerm yesterday
called on the Thai and other Asian governments to help protect
the fish by declaring a ban on shark-finning in their waters.
Governments should also conduct field research
to update their figures on shark populations off their shores,
they said, as well as the current situation of shark fisheries
in order to pave the way for a proper master-plan for sustainable
Four countries have already declared a
shark-finning ban in their waters - Brazil, the US, Costa Rica
The Thai government should urgently conduct
a study as recommended recently by the UN Food and Agriculture
Organisation, which asked member countries to submit a national
plan of action for sharks as a first step towards the management
and conservation of sharks, Knights said.
The master-plan would also help promote
Thailand's tourism industry, he added.
"Sharks always attract diving tourists
especially in Thailand, which is the home of the whale shark
[the biggest shark species]," said Tim Redford, a WildAid
staffer with 10 years experience around Thailand.
WildAid was running a worldwide campaign
to educate people to stop eating sharkfin soup, Knights said.
'Consumer power' would be the heart of the shark-conservation
effort in the long run, he said.
"People would stop eating sharkfin
soup only if they know how the fins were taken," he said.
"Considering the cooking processes
- drying, bleaching and drying again - all the taste and nutritional
value is removed. The remaining taste is the only ingredient.
The flavour of sharkfin soup is purely a fashion - image and
face," he said.
BY KAMOL SUKIN
Shark fin ban toothless, say restaurateurs
The Nation, 15th
A CAMPAIGN to ban shark fin soup has had
very little influence on consumers of the popular dish, according
to restaurant operators.
Two of the three major shark fin soup restaurants
in the Bangkok area said the campaign has had no effect on their
income, while one restaurant at a five-star hotel said that only
a few customers had declined to eat the soup, citing the campaign
as the reason.
"Some of the guests just said no.
They said they had heard of the campaign and wanted to be part
of it," said a chef from China Town Restaurant at the Dusit
Thani Hotel who asked not to be named.
However, the chef said the number of people
eating the soup has not gone down significantly. The main consumers
are Japanese who have yet to respond to the campaign: "They
[Japanese] might not have heard about it," she said.
WildAid, an international conservation
group last Thursday launched its latest study on the global shark-finning
crisis, including statistics in Thai seas. Every year, the study
said, 100 million sharks are finned worldwide, mostly to supply
restaurants for shark fin soup.
WildAid is canvassing the Thai consumer
to stop eating shark fin soup in order to halt demand for shark
finning and call on the government to conduct a master plan for
a sustainable shark fishery.
At Hoochalarm Scalar, an established shark-fin
soup restaurant in the Siam Centre area, with 20 years in the
business, the number of customers has gone down slightly. But
that is due to the economic recession, not the campaign, the
restaurant's director, Somchai Kanchana, told The Nation.
"The campaign is not an issue for
our customers. They love the soup," he said.
Somchai said his customer number is currently
at 300 per day. Almost all are politicians, actors or businessmen.
The dish is served at a price of Bt800 to Bt5,000, depending
on the shark fin's grade (or size), he added.
Particularly defiant in the face of the
campaign is a popular Japanese food franchise, Oishi Restaurant.
Oishi has just launched three shark fin
dishes as the featured "food of the month" on Thursdays
and Fridays at all its six branches in Bangkok.
"The promotion has increased our reservation
bookings by 20 per cent," said Phitchaya Wichanond of the
restaurant's call centre.
A shark-fin enthusiast who asked not to
be named said she had heard something about the campaign but
had not changed her mind about eating the soup.
"All kinds of meat we eat come from
killing," she said. "What's the difference?"
Another shark-fin lover said there had
been some discussion over the ban among his Chinese family members.
Finally, they decided it should be a matter of personal choice
whether or not to eat the soup, he said.
"But people my age do not love eating
the soup so much, maybe because we know more about the cruelty
that's required to get the fin," he said.
Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Foreign
Affairs will today bring up the issue for discussion, seeking
to push for a master plan for a sustainable shark fishery in
The committee is one of three senate committees
that have expressed interest in the shark campaign. Another two
are the committees on environment and tourism.
BY KAMOL SUKIN and