Shark Fin Soup

Shark Fin Soup

Shark fin soup

Shark 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 such as pork or chicken broth. The soup originated centuries ago during the Ming Dynasty. Demand for the soup has increased as income levels of Chinese communities worldwide have risen. Concerns over the sustainability and welfare of sharks have impacted consumption and availability of the soup.

Shark fin soup demand

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.

Is it safe to eat shark’s fin soup in pregnancy?

Pregnant women are advised to avoid shark, swordfish and marlin because of the high levels of mercury in these fish, which could harm your baby’s developing nervous system.
International wildlife protection group WildAid, in a bid to stem rising global demand for shark’s fin, has also warned that eating too much shark’s fin can cause sterility in men because it is usually heavily contaminated with mercury and other heavy metals.
Mercury cannot be removed by cooking. Yet, in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and most any city with a half decent Chinatown, you simply couldn’t attend an ethnic Chinese wedding feast or big banquet that did not have a shark’s fin course. While it may once have been the preserve of the wealthy, our growing affluence has put this Cantonese delicacy firmly on the menu of many upscale Chinese restaurants. Admittedly, the amount of shark’s fin in each bowl of soup is miniscule – one recipe called for 120g of dried shark’s fin to serve four to six people. However, since there’s no way to measure the exact amount of mercury in that particular fish, it is still best to limit any consumption of a fish that you know may have high mercury exposure.
Having said that, unless you have a thriving career as a wedding planner, you will probably not be called upon to eat shark’s fin soup in any significant quantity. So the bottom line is how much shark there is in the soup you’ll be consuming during your pregnancy: Eating shark’s fin soup on a regular basis during your pregnancy may cause you to accumulate high levels of mercury, but if it’s just an occasional small bowl (perhaps just one or two over the course of nine months), it shouldn’t be a problem.

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