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Shark fin soup: Is it Truly beneficial?

Author: Debora Pane(Seafood Savers Intern) -  
Translated: Arif Fajar Sulistyo


© WWF-Hong Kong / Tracy Tsang
© WWF-Hong Kong / Tracy Tsang

Shark fin soup is renown as a traditional dish that originated from the Chinese Empire. It is said that the dish symbolizes prosperity, success and well-being. Due to the expensive price, shark fin soup can only be enjoyed by the Emperor’s hierarchs. Today,  access to shark fins is increasingly available and easier to get, more people are able to consume them. Especially at the time of Lunar New Year, the dish has become a common food being served due to tradition1.

The demand for shark fin is one of the main causes for the decline of shark population from year to year. Based on the research conducted by the Shark conservations -WWF Indonesia, several restaurants and hotels in Jakarta can take around 12,633 kilograms of shark fin, within a one year period. While in Kuta, Bali, It is found that a total of 12  restaurants can serve about 2050 kg of shark fin, and 756 kg of shark head 2.

In addition to the cultural factors that support the consumption of shark fin soup,  there are many assumption about the intake of shark fin, one of which is that shark fin soup provides many health benefits. Among them are improving Skin quality, lowering cholesterol, fights cancer, preventing heart disorders even improving sexual ability3. However, the risk taken is not worth it.

First, Mercury ‘s levels on shark fins are relatively high. What dangers lurk consumers when exposed to high concentrations of Mercury? Consuming Mercury increases the risk of nerve disorders and risks injuring various organs, including the eyes, kidneys and liver. In addition, Mercury levels when consumed by pregnant mothers will risk the development of fetus4.

Secondly, the discovery of cyanobacteria on Sharks. Recent studies shows the presents of cyanobacteria on shark fins. Cyanobacteria is a bacterium that produces a non-proteinogenic amino acid, which is a neurotoxin that can potentially have a role in various neurological diseases. Such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, ALS or   Alzheimer’s. The presence of cyanobacteria on sharks is expected to emerge due to its migration area 5.

Thirdly, shark meat contains high substance of urea. Urea is the result of waste management of proteins by the kidneys. If people consume substantial amount of urea, it will increase the risk of harming or even kidney failure 6.

After evaluating the result, consuming sharks is not worth the amount of risk taken. In addition, to causing various diseases which can harm the body, the consumption   of sharks’ meat regularly can lead to a decrease in shark population drastically. Extinction becomes a real threat shark, when shark goes extinct it can cause disruption of the food chain and the stability of the environment.

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Source:

  1. Smith, Lauren (The Guardian). 2016. Shark Fin Soup: A dangerous delicacy for humans and sharks alike. Access on August 29, 2019. Https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2016/mar/10/shark-fin-soup-a-dangerous-delicacy-               for-humans-and-sharks-alike
  2. 2019. WWF-Indonesia- sharkconservation. Access on August 29, 2019. https://www.wwf.or.id/tentang_wwf/upaya_kami/marine/sains_kelautan_dan_perikanan/kons ervasi_hiu/
  3. Shark Fins. Access on August 29, 2019. http://www.fao.org/3/x3690e/x3690e0p.htm
  4. (2017). Mercury and Health. Access on August 29, 2019.  https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mercury-and-health
  5. The MDPI. (2016). Cyanobacterial Neurotoxin BMMA and Mercury in Sharks. Access on August 29, Rogers, Michael (Sharksider). 2017.  Shark Meat: Delicacy or Dangerous. Access on August 29, 2019.  https://www.sharksider.com/shark-meat-delicacy-dangerous/

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