Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

Shark fin soup - sadly/simply supply and demand

There's a lot of programming going on at the moment about our seas and our fish stocks - Channel 4 obviously, but also that mind-blowing Human Planet programme last week, the first in a new series that looks to me like the BBC is carrying on with making arguably the best natural history programmes out there (you can see it on iPlayer here). Anything that helps to raise awareness and provoke outrage and/or passion for these sorts of subject matters gets my vote in a big way. Gordon Ramsay's "Shark Bait" programme from last Sunday night was one that I have to confess left me utterly and profoundly disgusted (you can watch it here if you missed it). I must have said ten times to my wife during the programme, "the seas don't stand a chance, we're going to mess them up to the point of no return". Honestly, the mind boggles at what we do to this planet and its creatures.........

The abhorrent practise of cutting the fins from sharks and most often slinging them back still alive, to die one what one must imagine has to be a horribly painful and slow death, I see this form of "fishing" in two ways. Firstly, it's a very simple case of supply and demand. If (paying) customers want to buy and eat shark-fin soup, then shark fins are going to be hacked from the sharks and sold. Basic economics. But also I see this as one of the most disgusting, wasteful and cruel forms of "fishing" that one could ever imagine. The fact that more often than not the carcass of the shark is just not worth anything doesn't make any sense. How could anybody with any shred of human decency go about hacking the fins off a live animal and then sling the body away, and more often then not still alive ? The shot of those tiny silky sharks being unceremoniously hauled onboard from the long lines and then having the hooks literally cut and hacked from their living bodies brought me close to tears, and believe me when I say I have not cried since England won the rugby World Cup back in November 2003.

Personally I am of the belief that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a far more accomplished presenter at getting the point across, but all credit to Gordon Ramsay for fronting this programme. I really wanted Gordon to look right into the camera and therefore right at us viewers and give us his feelings of outrage and disgust, but instead he did this style of "talking to the director/producer off to the side of the camera" that means they never look into the camera and directly into our eyes. And I know the bloke is very famous for his temper and his swearing, but the lack of articulation as to his feelings at times left me wishing that Hugh could have been the bloke presenting the shark fin programme. But what you can not argue with once again is the fact that a "famous" person/celebrity getting behind something like this does give it a far bigger jolt of impact than any of you or I. Make sure to go to the Shark Trust website here - there is loads of very good info on there, and also take a look at Nick Hart's blog on this subject here.

I don't know how many of you have been to locations on this earth where you are amongst lots and lots of sharks, because it's something extremely special to see. Places like the remote atolls of the Seychelles, or indeed St. Brandon's off Mauritius, they are crawling with all manner of sharks, and to see them swimming and hunting up close is a pure privilege that I am lucky enough to have witnessed many times. How anybody could take one of those fish and hack the fins from its living body is beyond me, but millions of people want to eat shark fin soup, and so millions and millions of sharks must die to produce it. Most anglers I would imagine have a degree of fascination with these fantastic creatures, indeed my respect for them has always been total. They remind me so much of crocodiles, in that why does a creature need to evolve much more if it's pretty much perfect already ? Nature could not have designed much better top of the food chain predators than sharks, but then nature also sadly produced us to come along and do a pretty good job of potentially wiping virtually every other living thing from the face of the earth.

I am not sure what more to say about the practise of shark finning, principally because I can't for the life of me think of one single justification for it continuing. I want to blame people, but who do we blame ? Do we shout and scream about the customers who buy the shark fin soup, do we have a go at the "fishermen" who butcher the sharks for the fins, or do we blame the companies who then trade in the shark fins ? It strikes me that whenever there is a demand for a product, people are going to earn a living from supplying it - whether legal or illegal. The same as drugs. But if the demand for the product is lessened, then more sharks will live, and if the demand ceases then there is no way to earn a living from taking shark fins. I accept that this is a hugely simplistic view, but I can't think of a better way to put it. Much as I do not like the whole celebrity culture thing, the fact that a "celebrity chef" such as Gordon Ramsay has put his name to the Shark Trust by becoming its patron is fantastic, so I reckon the least we can do as decent, civilised human beings is to join this organisation (check here) and help to show that we want sharks in our seas, and we want these magnificent creatures to be properly protected.

Henry Gilbey5 Comments