The Issue

What is Shark Fin Soup?

Shark Fin Soup is a Chinese delicacy dating back to the Sung Dynasty (around 960AD). Originally reserved only for the Emperor and extremely wealthy elite, the dish’s popularity spread over time, becoming an expensive but attainable item. Serving it showed wealth and honour on the part of the hosts, while signifying a level of respect given to their guests.

Today, with a growing global population and rapidly expanding Chinese middle class, more and more families are able to afford this luxury item. The soup has taken on a hugely traditional symbolic value and has come to be expected as a feature of many big celebrations, most notably weddings.

There is a feeling held, particularly by members of the older generation, that to not serve shark fin risks bringing dishonour on a groom’s family. As a result, demand for shark fins has risen to a level which is simply no longer sustainable for our planet’s oceans.

The Truth about Shark Fin Soup

Despite its popularity, the shark fin itself does not contribute any flavour to shark fin soup. The flavour, as readily attested by all chefs, comes from the other ingredients used in the broth such as chicken or pork and the complex method of preparation.

The strands of cartilage, which are all that usually remain of the fin, provide a recognisable texture similar to crunchy noodles, although alternatives do exist. Essentially, the fins are added only for symbolic significance.

Some argue that there are health benefits to be gained from consuming shark fin. In reality however, the shark fin being eaten is likely to contain dangerous amounts of toxin mercury. This poses a threat to the reproductive health of men and women but is particularly risky for pregnant guests or those hoping to start a family soon.

Read more for information on the toll shark fin consumption is taking on the oceans