Imagine embarking on a quest to forge a brighter future, not just for ourselves but for the countless denizens of the deep blue. WildAid is championing this noble cause, casting a spotlight on a pressing issue that demands our immediate attention. As the new year unfurls its wings, there’s an impassioned plea to each and every one of us: Let’s make a seismic shift in our dining habits by turning our backs on shark products.
In a revealing study conducted by Rapid Asia, involving 1,007 urbanites from the heart of Thailand, an eye-opening picture was painted. The tradition of consuming shark fin—a symbol of luxury and prestige—is deeply ingrained in various social ceremonies. With a staggering 60% indulgence at family reunions and 57% at weddings, this custom pervades the Thai culinary scene. Furthermore, the auspicious Lunar New Year gatherings account for 42% of this consumption. Here lies a golden opportunity: by simply steering clear of shark fin soup during these celebrations, we can make a monumental difference.
Since the initiation of WildAid’s #NoSharkFin or “Chalong Mai Chalarm” campaign in 2017, Thailand has seen a heartening 27.5% decrease in shark fin consumption among its urban populace. This figure is a beacon of hope, illuminating the path towards sustainable coexistence. An even more breathtaking statistic surfaces from this advocacy—a 47% plummet in annual shark fin consumption among those who partook 2-5 times a year. Yet, the battle is far from over, with over half of the respondents still harboring the intent to indulge in the future. The undercurrents of tradition and culture are potent, but not insurmountable.
“When you really ponder over it, consuming shark fin is tantamount to dining on tigers or their cubs—both key pillars of their respective ecosystems,” states Dr. Petch Manopawitr, a beacon of conservation and an advisor to WildAid. He extends an inviting hand to everyone, urging us to initiate change right from our Lunar New Year celebrations by collectively saying no to shark fin.
In a groundbreaking collaboration with researchers from the esteemed King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL) and the Department of Fisheries, WildAid unveiled riveting findings from a DNA study of shark fin products hawked in Thailand. Alarmingly, a whopping 62% of the samples traced back to species teetering on the brink of extinction, according to the IUCN Red List. This trailblazing research, a first for Thailand, identified no less than 15 distinct shark species among 206 fin samples. The status of these species ranged from “Critically Endangered” to “Vulnerable,” casting a grim shadow over their survival.
Dr. Wanlada Klangnurak, the study’s pioneering lead researcher, highlights a disconcerting trend: the presence of fins from juvenile sharks. These findings underline the critical role young sharks play in the natural rejuvenation of shark populations, a cycle now under threat due to rampant trade.
In the grand tapestry of marine biodiversity, sharks and rays are experiencing a daunting threat of extinction—primarily due to overfishing and incidental catch. Thailand finds itself at a crossroads, playing a pivotal role in the global shark fin saga as a major exporter. The revelations from the DNA study are staggering—a third of the identified fins came from species not native to Thai waters, hinting at a vast network of importation to satiate local appetites and possibly fuel re-exportation.
“This study not only reaffirms Thailand’s significant footprint in the global shark fin trade but also sheds light on the urgent need for concerted conservation efforts,” shares Sirachai Arunrugstichai, a distinguished marine scientist and part of the research team.
Amidst these dire findings, there’s a glimmer of hope. The Department of Fisheries has taken the helm with the National Plan of Actions for Conservation and Management of Sharks (NPOA-Sharks), a strategic blueprint aimed at turning the tides in favor of shark conservation.
WildAid’s relentless pursuit to curtail shark consumption, paired with pivotal research findings, forms a clarion call to action. By fostering awareness and behavioral change, along with robust collaboration on conservation strategies, we are crafting a sanctuary for our shark allies. Together, we can echo the call of the wild, protecting these majestic creatures for generations to come.