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.