Malaysia has made it into the international news more than several times. Sometimes we're proud of it and sometimes we're not. One of the latter includes how Malaysia is the second largest importer of shark fins out of 68 countries and territories studied, according to a recent report by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). With a shocking quantity of 33,894 tonnes, we stand in between of Hong Kong (83,210 tonnes) and Singapore (14,134 tonnes). 

 

To make matters worse, "Malaysia is (also) ranked as the world's ninth largest producer of shark products, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (State of the Global Market for Shark Products report, 2015)," revealed Dato' Dr Dionysius Sharma, Executive Director/CEO of WWF-Malaysia. To put things into perspective, note that Malaysia has the fourth highest number of shark species in the world with at least 67 species in our waters

 

Whether it's ignorance or influenced by films, many don't realise what a huge role sharks play in the marine ecosystem, which in turn, affects us. Sharma shares that sharks also consume old, sick or weaker fishes which helps to prevent the potential outbreak of diseases, leaving the stronger and healthier ones to reproduce. New studies even show that sharks also maintain the health of coral reefs and protect vital sea habitats. 

 

The matters of the fin trade aren't something we often like to discuss, but we should. These seven Friends of Buro have taken the first step to start the conversation to help stop the demand. Read on as they share stories of how they stopped supporting shark fins and why. 

 

DEBBIE GOH

Debbie Goh anti-shark fins

I stopped supporting shark fins... after a dinner with Lynn Lim, a producer from Hong Kong and some friends. Lynn insisted not to order shark fin soup and explained why she was so against it. Intrigued, I went home after that and Googled up more information. After watching several videos about the importance of sharks and the inhumane ways they're killed, I made the decision to stop supporting the shark finning industry.

 

Why do you think there are still people ordering shark fin soup?

Prestige! Traditionally, shark fins are considered rare, difficult to acquire and thus, an expensive ingredient. When a host serves shark fin soup to guests, it shows his or her wealth. 

Sharks have existed for over 400 million years, but over the last half century, their population has declined drastically to the point where one-third of the pelagic shark species are now threatened with extinction.

In a situation where a friend eats shark fin soup, what would you do?

I personally don't consume shark fin products anymore. It acts as a testimony of what I'm advocating and it makes some people curious. When they ask or reproach, I'd show them a video of how the fins are brutally sawed off.

 

What is a message you want to share to everyone about shark fins?

Every year, tens of millions of sharks are killed to meet the demand. The fins are often sliced off while the sharks are still alive. Their bodies are then thrown back into the water. Unable to swim, they slowly endure a painful death from suffocation, blood loss, or predation by other species. Sharks have existed for over 400 million years, but over the last half century, their population has declined drastically to the point where one-third of the pelagic shark species are now threatened with extinction. Say no to shark fins. It's the right thing to do. 

 

 

MEGAN TAN

Megan Tan anti-shark fins

My first encounter with shark fin soup was... at a sit-down Chinese dinner when I was a kid. I'm not proud to say this but I consumed it then. 

 

What made you stop eating shark fins?

Back in 2012, I was strolling in a mall when I was approached by the members of Shark Savers Malaysia. They were trying to get the public to take a pledge to stop eating shark fins and it was then that I was educated on the horrifying fin trade. I've took a stand since. 

It frustrates me how some people know the truth and yet choose to ignore it simply because we're not experiencing the impacts... yet. Wake up and act now before it's too late.

In your own words, tell us the important role that sharks play.

Sharks are at the top of the food chain in the marine ecosystem. Without them, everything will lose its balance. There will be an overpopulation of the species which the sharks feed on and that, in turn, affects the entire pyramid. If sharks are extinct, some of the other marine life might follow suit. 

 

What would you like to say to the people who still buys shark fin products?

Get educated and stop being ignorant! It frustrates me how some people know the truth and yet choose to ignore it simply because we're not experiencing the impacts... yet. Wake up and act now before it's too late.

 

 

SHERSON LIAN

Sherson Lian anti-shark fins

What made you stop supporting shark fins?

As I grew older, I developed a love for the sea and sharks are such beautiful creatures. Then, I discovered the reality of how the fins are collected and it really turned me off. I stopped immediately and have been discouraging people from eating it since. I even have a tattoo of a shark on my arm to express my love for the sea. 

 

Do you try to stop the people around you from consuming shark fins?

Of course! And if they (my friends, mostly) still choose to eat it, I would make them feel bad. One time, I even convinced a total stranger to stop eating her bowl of shark fin soup by asking her how she would feel if I cut off her limbs and left her by the roadside. She must have thought I was nuts but it worked.

One time, I even convinced a total stranger to stop eating her bowl of shark fin soup by asking her how she would feel if I cut off her limbs and left her by the roadside.

What are your thoughts about the current F&B scene in Malaysia in regards to shark fins?

Compared to when I was younger, it has changed quite a bit whereby people are slowly taking it off the menus. However, it definitely needs to happen much faster.

 

What do you think needs to be done to put an end to the fin trade?

Firstly, they have to STOP eating it. I've heard a lot of people say things like, "Well, they're already cooked. It'd be more wasteful to not eat it." But that's the problem. Eating it shows there's still demand. If everyone stands firm and leave the soup untouched on the table, it displays a strong message. The establishments aren't the one responsible for the killings — those who eat them are.

 

 

TONG BING YU

Tong Bing Yu anti-shark fins

What made you stop supporting shark fin?

I've been a vegetarian for more than a decade and the reason why I stopped consuming shark fins is similar to my choice to be a vegetarian. I find it rather cruel to harm animals and I shouldn't be satisfying my personal cravings by bringing them pain. 

 

What do you think needs to be done to put an end to the fin trade?

In my opinion, the best way is to have the government implement a strict law against it. Of course, it's possible that there will still be illegal trades but it's the best way to truly get the ball rolling. Creating regular awareness campaigns is another good method to educate people and coerce them to face the reality of the trade.

 

I find it rather cruel to harm animals and I shouldn't be satisfying my personal cravings by bringing them pain.

 

What would you like to convey to the people reading this?

Realise that sharks are on the brink of extinction and as humans, we have the responsibility to protect all living things. I hope our generation would be able to create a bigger awareness about the seriousness of this issue and stop the finning industry for the sake of these creatures and our future generations. 

 

 

BERNIE CHAN

Bernie Chan anti-shark fins

My first encounter with shark fin soup was... at a Chinese restaurant when I was a little girl. In those days, it was a big deal as we rarely had it but I realised even back then that the shark fin itself has no taste. It's the other ingredients (especially the vinegar) that make it tasty.

 

Tell us an occasion where you were served shark fin soup and what you did.

I pushed my bowl away politely and most of the people at my table did too so the rest asked us why. I immediately launched into the gory details of how the shark fins are acquired and needless to say, no one ate it after that. On another occasion, a friend told me he still eats shark fins because he likes it. My reply? "Next time you go surfing and see a shark, remember that bowl and how karma might really bite you in the behind right there and then!" 

it has absolutely no nutritional value!

What do you think needs to be done to put an end to the fin trade? 

It needs to be banned in every restaurant in the world. There are already so many other things we eat, what's one less thing? 

 

Final words?

Don't eat unnecessary meats, especially one that is just killed for one part of its body. Plus, it has absolutely no nutritional value! 

 

 

NADIA HENG

Nadia Heng anti-shark fins

I stopped supporting shark fins... after watching a documentary on TV when I was about 16. I had no idea how brutal the finning process was, the sheer scale of the industry or the impact of killing the apex of the marine food chain. It affects both the ecosystem and commercial fisheries.

 

Any thoughts on the current level of awareness on anti-shark fins?

The anti-shark finning movement has really gained momentum in the last decade with a growing number of campaigns as well as more hotels and public figures actively discussing the issue and boycotting the finning industry. I think it helps more when you have a prominent Chinese celebrity talking about it and denouncing the practice in public campaigns — it has helped massively shift mindsets. 

It might be one special occasion to them, but how many weddings happen every year?

Shark fin essentially has no taste. Why do you think some people are still ordering it?

I think it's a mixture of ignorance and pride. A lot of people simply don't understand or realise what their buying habits are doing to the ecosystem. It might be one special occasion to them, but how many weddings happen every year? Some might see sharks as just another fish species so the thought of killing them and the cruelty of a slow death doesn't faze them. If they truly understood the trickle-down effect it has to the entire ocean ecosystems — and our future — they would see that having a bowl of expensive shark fin soup isn't something to be proud of, but to be ashamed of. 

 

Please share a message to our readers. 

Don't order it. If someone else does, politely decline. Engage in conversation when you can. Don't preach, but share what you know. Empower people so they can make better choices.

 

 

LUCAS LAU

Lucas Lau anti-shark fins

My first encounter with shark fin soup was... at a Chinese wedding dinner. Everyone seemed to enjoy the shark fin soup. 

 

How did you discover the negative impacts of supporting and consuming shark fins? 

It was thanks to the influence of a friend who's a marine biologist. I looked up more information about the issue and learnt that sharks are actually on the verge of extinction. I watched many documentaries and read countless articles on the anti-finning movement, how they're killed for their fins and how it affects not just the other marine life, but us, as well. 

If you're an influential person, all the more reason to help these creatures and spread awareness about this important issue.

Why do you think some people still support shark fins?

It's a tradition for certain families and some people might think shark fins have beneficial values for their health. They need to realise it's all not true. It has no taste, no nutritional value and it's not something to be proud of. 

 

The truth is... Sharks are actually very harmless. Please advise everyone by your side to stop eating their fins and don't give up persuading them either. If you're an influential person, all the more reason to help these creatures and spread awareness about this important issue.

 

CREDITS

Photography: Tommi Chu/Blink Studio

Hair: Angeline Low

Makeup: Joey Yap

Styling: Rachel Au 

Art direction: Yi Suen Chong