Our Opinion on Shark Fin Bans

There has been a lot of debate about whether or not a shark fin ban is racist. We cleared the record once in for all. Read our full opinion piece published in Sing Tao Daily yesterday and the Tyee


Shark Fin Ban: Motivation and Reasons
In order to protect sharks, we need both education and legislation 

Written by Claudia Li

刊於 星島日報。一月 三十一日 二0一一年
Published in Sing Tao Daily. January 31, 2012

Photo by Rodolphe Holler Tahiti-private-Expeditions.com


Some argue that the topic of shark fin is a racial issue. I respectfully disagree. Racism is the attack on something that cannot be changed (like the way we look). The fact is that we all care about our planet and the mass decimation of sharks is something that can be changed. The Chinese consumer is one of the many culprits in this cause, and it is indeed up to us to change some of our customs but if we continue to look at the issue from a narrow-minded racial perspective, then we are missing the bigger picture of ecological preservation.


There are many advocates for shark fin bans, including Wayson Choy, Yao Ming, Chinese assemblyman Ding Liguo, California Assembleyman Paul Fong, and Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam who are all from the Chinese community. Having a fin free world is fundamentally an ecological issue and everybody – including Chinese people – recognize that.

Why we urgently need bans

每年約有七千三百萬條鯊魚因魚翅遭到獵捕,以這樣的速度,有廿五個物種將在我們有生之年絕跡。鯊魚出生後二十逾年才會達到性成熟期,而每年平均只能生兩至三胎。它們是海洋的頂級獵食動物,身具保持食物鏈平衡的重責。中國政府曾因麻雀數量過多,大量的捕殺麻雀。不久後,許多地區便開始患蟲害,引起了嚴重的飢荒。相同地,過度獵捕鯊魚也會對海洋生態造成嚴重的影響,而造成鯊魚的過度獵捕全因為它們高價值的魚翅。一條鯨鯊的胸鰭雖可賣至五萬元美金,但因鯊魚肉、軟骨、肝油、魚皮等利潤太低,加上其體型巨大,漁商通常選擇在海上割下魚鰭後任其沉入海底流血至死,是殘酷又浪費的商業行為。許多商家聲明他們透過合法途徑購買魚翅,但問題在於目前僅有的漁業管理法規無法有效的阻止非法魚翅交易,因此我們必須從消費層面著手。當然消費者有權利選擇他們想要吃的食物,但是這些“權利”又帶來如何嚴重的後果?因此,立法是為了避免一時的口腹之慾而釀成環境危機。有些團體質疑如果我們想要保育動物,為什麼不提議立法禁止所有的工廠化養殖?當然,保育行動必須透過多方凝聚的力量。我成立Shark Truth的首要目標是保育鯊魚生態,但不會停止對其他動物保育的努力。

Every year, approximately 73 million sharks are poached for their fins. At this rate, it’s estimated that 25 species could disappear within our lifetime. Sharks take a long time to reach sexual maturity after birth, and only birth an average of 2-3 pups a year. But they are the top predators of the ocean, responsible for maintaining the balance of the food chain.

The government of China once campaigned to exterminate sparrows across the nation because they were seen as “pests.” Disrupting the natural ecosystem, this led to unstoppable bug infestations and caused devastating famine. Likewise, the overfishing of sharks will also have detrimental effects on our ocean ecosystem. The profitable shark fin trade is leading to the drastic decline of global shark populations. A Whale Shark’s dorsal fin could sell up to 50,000 USD, but due to low margin of profit from the meat, cartilage, liver oil and skin, plus the giant body size, fishermen just cut off the fin since it’s the most profitable part of the shark and toss the rest of the body back into the ocean, making it an extremely wasteful practice.

Some businesses argue that the shark fin they import is being imported legally and they’re not doing anything wrong. This is exactly the problem: the legislation that exists in fisheries management today to protect sharks is limited in quantity and in power to enforce. This is why we need to start from the demand-side of the equation.

Some consumers claim that they have the right to eat what they want. But have we asked ourselves at what consequence do these “rights” come with? The satisfaction of our palette is not an excuse to create an environmental crisis – we need legislation to protect sharks.

Some groups say that if we wish to protect animals from cruelty, why not ban factory farming? Conservation is collective action where education, legislation and other forces work together. Not having success in one area should not prevent us from achieving success in another. Shark Truth’s organizational mission is to protect sharks but if I could personally choose, I would wish to protect all animals.

Cultural Shift

我的曾祖母曾裹小腳、祖母沒有投票權,而我和母親卻能目睹英女皇登基的新聞。可見,文化是一個集體的價值觀,也是一個持續在成長和改變的意識,我們必須持續為新的世界形態奠定新的文化意識。Shark Truth長期教育及推廣保育意識,但是改變不能只透過教育,需要多方的配合。我們之所以迫切的提倡立法禁止魚翅交易,是因為有些鯊魚種類正瀕臨絕種,而生態一旦消失了,就不能重生,我們的子孫便無法繼續享有健康的海洋。我所引以為傲的華人文化是一個對尊重大自然、家人、與團體和諧的族群,我們應將這個精神傳承下去。

My great-grandmother had her feet bound, my grandmother didn’t have the right to vote, but my mother and I just witnessed the British empire changing the rules for the first time to allow female heirs to ascend the throne. The foundation of a culture is built on collective value, which is dynamic and constantly growing. We grow as we learn and we change as we grow. Shark Truth has a focus on building awareness, education and community but to successfully protect sharks in the long-run, we need the support of legislation. We advocate for shark fin bans because there are species of sharks that are nearing extinction as we speak. And once these species disappear, they will not come back, and our future generations will not have a healthy ocean or planet to live in. One of many reasons why I’m proud of our Chinese heritage is that our culture is one rooted in harmony, respect for nature and devotion to family and community. This is our responsibility now to ensure that this is a legacy we preserve and pass onto our children for their future.

李妍蕙是第一代的加拿大華僑,為了提倡鯊魚保育行動而成立Shark Truth,曾榮獲Tides Top 10Explore雜誌的Top 30 Under 30等獎項。

Claudia Li is a first generation Chinese-Canadian who founded Shark Truth to promote awareness and action for shark conservation. Shark Truth has been awarded as a Tides Top 10 and Li was recently named Top 30 Under 30 by Explore Magazine.

*Note: The translation is to encompass the context of the information and is not a direct word-for-word translation.