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Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 19:15 GMT
Campaign targets Shark's fin soup
Hammerhead sharks
Sharks can drown without their fins
Shark's fin soup, an expensive Chinese delicacy, is the target of a fresh campaign in Singapore to save the declining shark population.

We're talking about eating cartilage, the equivalent to your fingernails or your hair

Michael Aw
The Save Our Sharks campaign is calling on people to tone down their appetite for the popular dish, highlighting the cruelty and waste involved in the practise of finning.

As sharks' fins have a much higher value than the meat, fishermen slice the fins off and then throw the sharks back in the water, where the animals usually drown or bleed to death.

man cutting off shark's fin
WildAid has likened the practise of finning to the slaughter of elephants for ivory

Environmentalists claim the trade is putting populations of the ocean's top predator under mounting pressure, even in danger of collapse.

"Sharks are vanishing from our waters," said Michael Aw, publisher of Asian Geographic magazine, which launched the campaign with the international conservation group WildAid, which has its headquarters in San Francisco.

It's going to be consumers who save the sharks, not governments

Peter Knights, head of WildAid
WildAid has said about 100 million sharks are killed every year in a trade which it likens to the scandal of the slaughter of elephants for their ivory.

The group has said that the number of consumers eating shark's fin has risen from a few million in the 1980s to more than 300 million today.

'Eating fingernails'

Campaigners in Singapore have also emphasised that the shark's fin has no nutritional value, saying the soup's taste was merely derived from stock.

Shark's fin soup
The soup can cost up to $100 a bowl
"We're talking about eating cartilage, the equivalent to your fingernails or your hair," Mr Aw said.

He said that with the shark population declining in Asian waters, traders are going as far as the Galapagos Islands and the South African coast to hunt for fins.

Aimed at children and restaurant owners, the campaign will draw in school students to collect pledges from friends and family not to eat shark's fins.

Singapore is the world's third largest centre for the shark fin trade after Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Finning is pushing the shark populations to the limit

The current campaign is a step down from a previous one, which drew a furious response in the letters pages of newspapers in Singapore.

Past campaigns by WildAid have involved Peter Benchley, author of the best-selling book Jaws.

"I have swum with sharks and also seen graveyards of finned sharks littering the bottom of the sea, an appalling sight," Mr Benchley has previously said.

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See also:

06 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Soup threatens sharks' survival
22 Feb 01 | Sci/Tech
Sharks endangered by fin trade
19 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Further shark controls rejected
25 Oct 99 | Sci/Tech
Better news for basking sharks
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