I read with interest "Fake shark fins may be infiltrating the Taiwan market" (Nov. 24, page 2).
The supply of shark fins has not reduced "because of attempts to conserve sharks" as there has been no meaningful restrictions placed on any of the commercialized species. It has reduced because the shark is disappearing. Fishing for shark has gone up dramatically -- witness 365 Indonesian boats seized in Australian waters last year, for example -- and spread to even the remotest of places. There are simply fewer sharks available, while the market, especially China, has exploded. It is estimated that fins from 40 million sharks a year are used for soup and in a recent survey 35 percent of urban Chinese reported eating shark fin soup in the last year.
Hydrogen peroxide and other chemicals are used to treat both real and fake fins and consumers should know they are eating chemicals as well as destroying the environment. But perhaps even more serious is the high levels of the toxin methyl mercury found in many shark fins. A recent survey indicates one-third of fins contain levels in excess of WHO recommendations. This is especially dangerous for people who consume a lot of other seafood, which may also contain mercury, and to pregnant women as it may cause developmental problems for the unborn child.
So there is much better advice for potential consumers than "get to know your shark fin." Just say no to shark fin and help protect your health and the world's oceans.
Executive director, WildAid