July 7th, 2008
11:32 AM ET

Shark fin soup is tasty...but so is a twinkee

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/07/art.fins.jpg]
Lisa Ling
AC360° Special Correspondent

On our last night in Taiwan, we visited a restaurant that proudly serves Shark Fin Soup. A couple from Japan came specifically because they had seen an ad for it in a popular Japanese magazine. It was a Thursday night and the restaurant was full—every table ordered it. What was once only consumed on special occasions for wealthy people has become so commonplace that we saw shark fin products in a gas station mini-mart.

It seems the best way to save the world's shark population will be to educate people about how shark fin soup is made. I know that I was totally shocked when I learned of the process and what happens to so many sharks as a result of our desire to consume this insignificant soup. Sure, it's tasty, but so is a twinkee.

Filed under: Lisa Ling • Planet in Peril
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. J.V.hodgson

    Totally agree wher the eating habits of any individual threaten any species, even if it is only a minor threat ( sometimes radical environmentalists overstate the case) the eaters might consider how long they can enjoy the so called delicacy or speciality which already implies a scarcity! Does it not.
    This is also very specific and wider issues like whale meat, tiger parts, Elephant tusks, Bears paw, over fishing of Tuna and Salmon and many others are equally if not more pressing issues.
    Education and independent Information is the key to these issues and should be part of the World Food programs concern as well as Environmentalists.
    A two pronged approach will have more validity to Mr. and Mrs. average diner or medication?? taker. Use Viagra nor Tiger parts!! And anyway how many times is using the latter of either kind of medication? not a cardinal sin anyway to any relifgious belief??!!

    July 8, 2008 at 4:21 am |
  2. Ilhana, Bosnia

    So just because everyone else in the world is slaughtering some other animal, it is then ok to kill sharks this way? Because it is "hypocritical" to think otherwise and just point to the sharks, while ignoring other unspeakable acts? I say that is just a narrowminded point of view... we need to stop all slaughtering, even if it means educating people about them one-by-one. This is just one step, and I say, go Ling!

    And as for that comment about tiny fishes experiencing feelings of revenge and relief after seeing a mutilated shark drop down into death... I would laugh if this was not a serious matter. Educate yourself, people.

    July 8, 2008 at 3:06 am |
  3. Sabrina in Los Angeles

    Sad that wealth will buy anything, even if immoral.

    July 8, 2008 at 1:45 am |
  4. Annie Kate

    I don't think people should think it is ok to eat shark fin soup if the practice of obtaining the shark fins is slowly but surely pushing the shark population ever closer to being an Endangered Species.

    When whales were being hunted to the point of endangerment the world countries put a moratorium on the practice of whaling. We need to recognize that we are not the ultimate species on this planet and that we should be good stewards of the bounty this planet has and realize that we all are interconnected – if one species is pushed into extinction it has a ripple effect that will ultimately affect us all.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 7, 2008 at 7:24 pm |
  5. marcy

    Amen Chow! That's what I've been trying to say, but apprenlty not getting it across!

    Mobile, AL

    July 7, 2008 at 5:51 pm |
  6. Chow

    There is nothing wrong about eating shark fins.

    On the grounds that only the fins are eaten, while the rest of the body are "wasted", aren't we also wasting tens of millions of chicken feet by not eating them? Did you know that the Chinese eat chicken feet regularly as a Dim Sum dish? By that argument , shouldn't we admire the Chinese for reducing chicken waste?

    Are sharks an endangered species? I don't think so because by definition, a species is endangered only if a few of that species are left. If there are only a few sharks left, there wouldn't be enough to serve that many customers.

    Ultimately, the definition of "wrong" or "inhumane" as applied to this case is up to the beholder.

    Durham NC.

    July 7, 2008 at 5:24 pm |
  7. Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX

    Sharon~ Have you ever witnessed the killing in a slaughterhouse?
    I have and I can tell you it is not pretty or humane. They should put videos in all of them because if you saw the cruelty and suffering in those big brown eyes, you could not consume the flesh.

    Marcy~I hate roaches but environmentally speaking, they recycle manure. Yeah, that's right they have a purpose! that is what they do in the forest. Of course a roach can eat anything including you hair. So, if you find a roach in your bed, he might be munching on your hairdo!
    But they seriously do the forest a lot of good but i don't want them in my house, much less my bed or my head! all those eggs in my hair make me crazy 😉 !!!!

    July 7, 2008 at 4:54 pm |
  8. marcy


    Have you seen the way they skin some animals? The process is pretty much the same lacking the drowning part. That said what tiny fish woudln't love to chop down on a shark after he watched it kill his family!


    July 7, 2008 at 4:50 pm |
  9. Sharon, LA, CA

    One comment on going to the slaughterhouse: The butchers don't cut off the animal’s arms and legs and then throw them out the door to die a slow miserable death. Meanwhile, for shark fins that's exactly what happens – the butchers – and I do mean butchers – cut off the sharks fins and throw the rest back in the water – and of course the shark can no longer swim. It sinks to the bottom and waits to be attacked – and it's not dead. Try jumping in the water some time with your arms and legs tied to your body and experience the same.

    July 7, 2008 at 3:55 pm |
  10. marcy

    Ok I hear you guys, and yes I think we need sharks to balance out everything, and yes I agree why not use the entire shark (don’t people eat the meat on sharks like they do say a catfish?-not me mind you I’m not a fan of seafood).

    My point in this was, and to keep the discussion going – cause I like AC like a discussion – that Lisa seems to focus on the harvesting of the animal, not the other issues involved . I wanted to know just what we were combating here, the loss of the ecosystem due to the lack of sharks, the in humane way the sharks are wasted for such a small piece (do these guys not realize the value (according to my nephew) of a shark tooth necklace around an 8 year old’s neck (as if he wrestled the thing to the ground himself)?

    It’s not illegal there, is there a reason? Why can’t the same laws else where be put in place in Taiwan ?

    I also think that the idea of shark fin soup would taste bland to me, but apparently it’s not a practice they plan to stop, so why get all up in their face about it? Do they not have bigger “fish” to fry? Planet in Peril is about the big issues, and I just don’t see this as a big issue, maybe the piece will enlighten me.

    Anyone else notice in the video last week that Neil was about to hit someone for touching his camera after he asked him to stop over and over?! Now I hope when that happens that Charlie grabs it up for the “extra footage” on the DVDs this fall.

    As for the not-so-cuddly animals and their needs, you tell me what exactly is so great and wonderful about a roach? What’s he done for you lately!


    July 7, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  11. Dhyana, Los Angeles

    I urge all to watch the documentary "Sharkwater", regardless of your feelings on the matter. It both shocked and educated me.

    Yes, the finning practice is appalling from a humane perspective (though no more than what happens on a minute-by-minute basis in slaughterhouses around the world). It's also incredibly wasteful because in most cases, the rest of the shark is dumped back into the ocean. How can we tell other cultures to stop certain practices without being incredibly ethnocentric? I think most people are focusing on these things and not realizing the big issue:
    The long-term ecological effects of slowly killing off the world's top predators!
    The ocean ecosystems are going to suffer greatly over time and it's eventually going to effect us self-centered human beings in a huge way.

    July 7, 2008 at 3:17 pm |
  12. AH

    The issue is that this is an endangered animal, it's also vital to the health of the sea. Do you see any problem here?
    Also, the argument about cows– well, it's time to face the fact that the beef industry is terrible for the environment- 18% of the worlds greenhouse gas emissions. So yes, people gripe, and for good reason, as Americans eat much more per person, and much, much more beef.
    Now every nation can do their part or they can look the other way. Sorry you don't see the big deal. I guess you wont until it affects your part of this world.

    July 7, 2008 at 3:13 pm |
  13. Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX

    Hello Lisa,
    I have never been a fan of sharks but I do know that we need them and other not so cuddly animals like roaches for example, to make our ecosystem healthy.
    It is a travisty to that we are destroying our planet at a escalating rate.
    You are what you eat surely takes on a new meaning. Are we in a feeding frenzy of our planet? . . kinda makes you wonder.
    Did you know that we can not safely fish our gulf because we have used it for a toilet for so long? Yes, even in restaurants on the U.S. coast the shrimp and osyters are descretely flown in from Asia.
    What ever happened to ," I shall not hurt or destroy in all thy holy mountain"?

    July 7, 2008 at 2:51 pm |
  14. Angela Krieger, Virginia

    I agree with Marcy.

    Go to a slaughter house. Nasty and disturbing. Eventually though, you start to salivate for a juicy steak and forget/accept the cows demise...not to mention that cows aren't known for dismembering swimmers or eating them whole.

    Make your soup, but utilize the whole shark. No need to waste.

    July 7, 2008 at 2:05 pm |
  15. marcy

    So if the shark fins were harvested in a humane way it would be ok to eat it? So what’s the issue here?! Is the problem that the animals die the way they are or the fact that the species is endanger?

    Anyone who goes to a slaughter-house won't eat hamburger for a while, anyone who goes to a chicken slaughter house won't set up the fryer? So what exactly is the issue here the humane side for the animal or the endangerment to the species?

    It became a delicacy for a reason, other cultures have different habits what if someone came over here griping and complaining about the cows we kill? Goodness knows there's a lot of them. I mean I don’t like to eat cockroaches, but frankly if other counties wants to eat them they are more than welcome to.

    Look forward to the report, however in everything I’ve read I just don't see the big deal, Lisa welcome to the 360 PIP team!

    Mobile, AL

    July 7, 2008 at 12:46 pm |
  16. GF, Los Angeles

    Shark Fin Soup has been in existence for many years since it is part of the Asian culture – particularly the Chinese. I've had it myself and it is quite good. I would normally only eat it during celebratory occasions since it's ordered by the family to share regardless if I eat it or not. Maybe through education of the new generation may we slow down the consumption of this delicacy. Perhaps there's a way to breed sharks only for consumption and I mean the whole shark and not just the fins?

    July 7, 2008 at 12:23 pm |
  17. Michael, NC

    I am always amazed with some people's ignorance. To see these practices happening more and more often is upsetting. It just goes to show that we as a population are moving backwards.

    July 7, 2008 at 12:00 pm |