Go Easy On That Bowl Of Shark’s Fin

BANGKOK – A new campaign to save the sharks encourages people not to abstain from the dish entirely, but to eat less of it. 

A KINDER, gentler campaign to wean local appetites off shark’s fin soup was launched yesterday by the international conservation group WildAid and the Singapore-based Asian Geographic magazine.

Worldwide demand for shark’s fin has led to the fishing of hammerheads.

WildAid, whose first Save The Shark campaign sparked off a heated exchange in The Straits Times Forum pages last July, is keen to stress this time round that the message is not ‘stop eating shark’s fin’, but ‘eat less of it’.

Asian Geographic, a two-year-old bi-monthly environmental magazine owned by hotelier Ong Beng Seng, plans to reach out to schoolchildren and restaurant owners on this matter.

For starters, it will distribute pledge cards to students of 25 schools and get them to collect promises from their parents, relatives and friends to gulp down less of the expensive delicacy.

Said Asian Geographic publisher Michael Aw, a well-known underwater photographer: ‘Even if they don’t actually do it, at least it gets them to start talking about the issue.’

Educational grants will be given to the students who collect the most pledges.

The magazine, with a circulation of 18,000, will also allow restaurants that stop serving shark’s fin soup to advertise in it for free.

Mr Aw has produced a music video which he calls A Serenade To Sharks and he is trying to get some airtime for the clip on local television stations.

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

Avid diver Tony Wu said at yesterday’s press conference: ‘The attitude of many people here is that it really doesn’t make a difference what we do. It does.’

He and others sent letters to Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways International in 1999 and last year, and managed to persuade both to stop serving shark’s fin soup to their first-class passengers.

Mr Peter Knights, a British ecologist who heads WildAid, noted: ‘It’s going to be consumers who save the sharks, not governments.’

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