Shark fin soup
|Alternative name(s)||Shark's fin soup|
|Place of origin||China|
|Main ingredient(s)||Shark fins, broth|
|Shark fin soup|
|Cantonese Jyutping||jyu4 ci3|
|Hanyu Pinyin||yú chì|
|Literal meaning||Fish fin|
Shark fin soup (or shark's fin soup) is a popular soup item of Chinese cuisine usually served at special occasions such as weddings and banquets, or as a luxury item in Chinese culture. The shark fins provide texture while the taste comes from the other soup ingredients. The soup originated centuries ago during the Ming Dynasty. Demand for the soup has increased as income levels of Chinese communities worldwide have risen. International concerns over the sustainability and welfare of sharks have impacted consumption and availability of the soup.
Historical background 
Shark fin soup dates back to Ming Dynasty China and is considered by Chinese as one of the eight treasured foods from the sea. The popularity of shark fin soup rose in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as standards of living began to improve. The delicacy was coveted by emperors because it was rare, delicious, and required elaborate preparation. Holding both culinary and symbolic significance, the dish is popular at important occasions such as weddings, banquets, and important business deals. It symbolizes wealth, power, prestige and honor. This staple of gourmet Chinese cuisine is a show of respect, honor, and appreciation to the guests.
Genuine shark fin soup or stew is made with shark fins obtained from any of a variety of shark species. Raw shark fins are processed by first removing the skin and denticles, then trimming them to shape and bleaching to a more desirable colour.
Sharks' fins are sold in many forms: dried, cooked, wet and frozen. Canned ready-to-eat shark fin soup is also available in Asian markets.
There are two types of the dried form, cooked/skinned (shredded) and raw/unskinned which requires more preparation. Both need to be softened before they can be used to prepare soup.
In shark fin soup, the fins themselves are virtually tasteless. The taste comes from the soup, while the fins are valued for their texture. Keith Bradsher of The New York Times describes it as a "chewy, sinewy, stringy" texture. Krista Mahr of TIME called it "somewhere between chewy and crunchy." Dave Lieberman of OC Weekly wrote that it is a "snappy, gelatinous texture". Most westerners' reaction to eating shark fin soup for the first time is that it has almost no taste. However, texture is prized as much as taste in Asian cuisine.
Health impact 
It is alleged in old Chinese medical books that shark fins helps in areas of rejuvenation, appetite enhancement, blood nourishment and is beneficial to vital energy, kidneys, lungs, bones and many other parts of the body.
Vitamin content of typical shark fin soup is much less than that of typical vegetable soup, containing almost no vitamin A. However, it contains slightly more iron, zinc, riboflavin, and phosphorus than normal vegetable soup.
WildAid, a wildlife non-governmental organization, warned that eating too much shark fin can cause sterility in men. It is known that larger fish like shark, tuna and swordfish contains high level of methylmercury, but as the soup is not a staple food and only served on important occasions, the health risk to adults is likely negligible.[original research?] However, for soon-to-be pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children, FDA/EPA have advised them to avoid consumption of fish high in mercury.
Shark fin soup is a popular delicacy in China, and is eaten in Chinese restaurants around the world. Peter Knights, executive director of WildAid, said in 2001 that the shark fin trade more than doubled in the prior 15 years.
A survey carried out in China in 2006 by WildAid and the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association found that 35% of participants said they had consumed shark fin soup in the last year, while 83% of participants in an online survey conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature, said that they had consumed shark fin soup at some time.
In Hong Kong restaurants, where the market has traditionally been strong, demand from Hong Kong natives has reportedly dropped, but this has been more than balanced by an increase in demand from the Chinese mainland, as the economic growth of China has put this expensive delicacy within the reach of a growing middle class.
Based on information gathered from the Hong Kong trade in fins, the market is estimated to be growing by 5% a year. Consumption of shark fin soup has risen dramatically with the middle class becoming more affluent, as Chinese communities around the world enjoy increasing income levels. The high price of the soup means it is often used as a way to impress guests or at celebrations, 58 percent of those questioned in the WWF survey said they ate the soup at a celebration or gathering.
Some groups, such as Fins Attached, Shark Savers, Shark Angels, Shark Whisperer, Shark Huggers, among others, discourage the consumption of the soup due to concerns with the world’s shark population and how inhumanely sharks are finned alive and tossed back into the ocean, unable to swim, hunt or survive. The prevalence of shark finning and the sustainability of sharks are both debated. Others[quantify] feel targeting the Chinese tradition is Sinophobic. Major hotel operators The Peninsula Hotels and Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts stopped serving shark fin soup in the interest of offering sustainable seafood. The three largest supermarket chains in Singapore—Cold Storage, NTUC FairPrice and Carrefour—have stopped selling shark fins while also citing sustainability concerns. Hong Kong Disneyland dropped the soup from its menu after it could not find a sustainable source. The University of Hong Kong banned serving shark fin soup, hoping "to give a lead which others in Hong Kong will follow".
Malaysia's Natural Resources and Environment Ministry banned shark's fin soup from official functions in a commitment to the Malaysian Nature Society to conserve the shark species. In the United States, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands have banned the sale and possession of shark fins, effectively eliminating the availability of the soup. Illinois has become the fifth state to implement a ban on shark fin trade, the first non-pacific state. In the past, Illinois has been a large importer of shark fins. President Obama has signed the shark conservation act, which will close loopholes used to obtain shark fins. California governor Jerry Brown cited the cruelty of finning and potential threats to the environment and commercial fishing in signing the bill. Opponents charged the ban was discriminatory against Chinese, the main consumers of the shark fin soup, when federal laws already banned the practice of finning. Whole sharks would still be legally fished, but the fins could no longer be sold. A lawsuit has been filed in United States District Course by Chinese American groups seeking to overturn the ban. In Canada, Vancouver city counsel has decided to work towards creating some sort of ban to preserve the shark species. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, joined other municipalities like Brantford and Mississauga in adopting a shark fin ban on 13 October 2011. Calgary, Alberta joined other Canadian cities in banning shark fin soup on 16 July 2012. On 2 July 2012, China State Council of the People's Republic of China declared that sharks fin soup can no longer be served at official banquets. This ban may take up to three years to take effect because it is such a social dish in Chinese culture. China is the second Asian country to ban the dish, after Taiwan.
Artificial shark fin 
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (January 2012)|
Substitutes for shark fin exist. Products can be made from gelatin. Vegetarian shark fin made from soy can be found on the markets. A Japanese company product is made from pork gelatin. A popular, low-cost 'fake sharks fin soup' (碗仔翅) made using vermicelli is widely available in Chinese eateries in Asia.
See also 
- Bird's nest soup
- Buddha Jumps Over the Wall, a soup containing shark fin
- Shark Fin Free Auckland
- Shark’s Fin and Prawn Dumpling in Superior Soup
- Keith Bradsher, Disneyland in China Offers a Soup and Lands in a Stew, 17 June 2005 The New York Times
- Caroline Li, Lobster replaces shark's fin at Disney, The Standard, 16 July 2005
- Bird, Maryann (26 February 2001). "Man Bites Shark". TIME. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
- Vannuccini, S. (1999). "Shark utilization, marketing and trade". FAO Fisheries Technical Paper (Rome: FAO) 389. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
- Barboza, David (13 August 2006). "Waiter, There’s a Celebrity in My Shark Fin Soup". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
- "Recipes: Shark's Fin Soup". The New York Times. 3 November 1982. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
- Fleshler, David; Lelis, Ludmilla (8 June 2008). "Demand for delicacy puts sharks in peril". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
- Viegas, Jennifer (1 December 2009). "Shark fins traced to endangered populations". MSNBC. Discovery News. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
- Woo, Joyce (5 September 2010). "Shark tale: Hong Kong's use of fins as a delicacy under fire". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
- "FAO Techpaper 389, Background info". FAO. Retrieved 16 January 2002.
- "Shark's Fin in Chinese Cooking". chinesefood-recipes.com. Retrieved 6 January 2007.
- Mahr, Krista (9 August 2010). "Shark-Fin Soup and the Conservation Challenge". TIME.
- Lieberman, Dave (3 May 2010). "Why Is Shark's Fin So Controversial?". Orange County Weekly. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
- "Shark Fin Soup Nutrition Facts". Retrieved 3 February 2011.
- "Vegetarian Vegetable Soup Nutrition Facts". Retrieved 3 February 2011.
- "Alternative approaches to prostate cancer treatment.". Retrieved 23 June 2008.
- Pollack, Andrew (3 June 2007). "Shark Cartilage, Not a Cancer Therapy". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 August 2009.
- The results of a study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, and led by Dr. Charles Lu of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology on 2 June 2007 in Chicago. Cancer patients treated with extracts from shark cartilage had a shorter median lifespan than patients receiving a placebo. "Shark fin won’t help fight cancer, but ginseng will". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 4 June 2007. pp. A1, A4. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
- "Watch out for shark fin soup". China Daily. Retrieved 21 May 2005.
- "Beware of shark meat, FDA warns". CNN. 26 April 1996.
- "What You Need to Know about Mercury in Fish and Shellfish". FDA. Retrieved 2004.
- "What You Need to Know about Mercury in Fish and Shellfish". EPA. Retrieved 2004.
- Laura Marquez (30 October 2006). "Decimating Shark Population for Some Soup". ABC News. Retrieved 8 January 2007.
- Karliah Brown (27 May 1999). "Fins for sale". The Independent (London). Retrieved 8 January 2007.
- "WWF Marine Awareness Survey: Seafood consumption". WWF. 13 October 2005. Retrieved 8 January 2007.
- "Yao Ming unlikely to curb China's shark fin appetite". The Taipei Times. 3 May 2006. Retrieved 8 January 2007.
- "Media silent on shark fin soup affair". The Standard. 1 September 2006. Retrieved 8 January 2007.
- Julie Chao (19 May 2004). "Chinese Taste For Endangered Seafood Growing". Cox News Service. Retrieved 8 January 2007.
- "Shark fin soup alters an ecosystem". CNN. 15 December 2008. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
- Lem, Sharon (5 July 2011). "Shark fins banned in Oakville". Toronto Sun. Archived from the original on 27 January 2012.
- Giam, Choo Hoo (1 December 2006). "Shark fin's soup – eat without guilt". The Straits Times.
- Li, Zoe (8 March 2011). "Is a shark's fin ban anti-Chinese?". CNNGo. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
- "Hong Kong's shark fin traders feel pressure". Sydney Morning Herald. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
- "Shark Fins off the menu at top hotel". CNN. 22 November 2011.
- "Shangri-La Announces Sustainable Seafood Policy And Discontinuing Use Of All Shark Fin Products in 72 hotels and resorts". Shangrila. 17 January 2012.
- "Carrefour says no to shark's fin". Yahoo!. 7 January 2012.
- Chester Yung and Teddy Ng (25 June 2005). "Disney ditches shark's fin". The Standard. Retrieved 8 January 2007.
- Doug Crets and Mimi Lau (3 November 2005). "HKU bans shark fin dishes". The Standard. Retrieved 8 January 2007.
- "ChannelNewsAsia.com, Malaysian ministry bans shark's fin soup". Channel NewsAsia. 15 September 2007. Retrieved 1 November 2011.
- "Hawaii: Shark Fin Soup Is Off the Menu". The New York Times. Associated Press. 29 May 2010. p. A16. Retrieved 20 June 2011. "Gov. Linda Lingle signed a bill on Friday prohibiting the possession, sale, trade or distribution of shark fins, which are used in expensive Chinese dishes."
- "Washington bans sale, trade of shark fins". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 1 November 2011.
- Oregon House of Representatives bills of 2011 Oregon's shark fin bill was HB 2838 by Representative Brad Witt. Passed Senate unanimously, passed House 58 to 1. Signed into law by Governor John Kitzhaber on 16 June 2011.
- "Bills Signed by Oregon Governor Kitzhaber". Data.oregon.gov. Retrieved 1 November 2011.
- Harmon, Steven (8 October 2011). "Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill banning shark fins in California". San Jose Mercury News. Archived from the original on 9 December 2011. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
- "Guam Moves to Protect Sharks – Governor Calvo Signs Shark Fin Ban Into Law in Guam". Reuters. 9 March 2011. Retrieved 23 June 2011. "... Guam has now become the third place in the Pacific that has taken a definite stand against shark finning, the trade of fins and shark fin soup."
- "Shark Fin Possession Bill Made Law Today in Guam". Guammicronesiadivetravel.com. Retrieved 1 November 2011.
- "Illinois Becomes Fifth State to Ban Shark Fin Trade". Humane Society of the United States. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
- "Illinois Shark Fin Ban: First Inland State Adopts Policy Against Fin Sale, Trade". Huffington Post. Retrieved November 20 2012.
- Steven Harmon (3 January 2013). "Federal judge deals setback to group trying to overturn California ban on shark fin soup". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
- "Shark fin ban sought by Vancouver council". CBC News. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
- Peat, Don. "Committee approves shark fin ban". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
- "City council votes 13–2 to ban sale, possession of shark fins". Calgary Herald. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- "China Says No More Shark Fin Soup at State Banquets". The New York Times. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
Further reading 
- Baum J.K., Myers R.A., Kehler D.G., Worm B., Harley S.J., Doherty P.A. (2003) — Collapse and Conservation of Shark Populations in the Northwest Atlantic. Science, 5605: 389–392.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Shark fin soup|
- Decimating Shark Population for Some Soup ABC News, 30 October 2006.
- Fisherman holds shark fin by The Smithsonian Institution: Ocean Portal
- How Sharks Have Paid the Price for Demand for Shark Fin Soup. The Voice of America's Special English Branch.
- Shark Truth – a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to promoting awareness, education and action about shark fin soup in the Chinese community