Students want to let sharks off the hook
By Chua Ai Ni
Apr. 24 2012
More than 380 students from NUS showed their support for a campus-wide campaign to ban shark’s fin soup at a series of events and activities organised by NUS PEACE, in Jan. this year.
Saylin Ong, president of the group, said the activities were planned in support of the Project: FIN's campaign — a Singaporean marine conservation group — to educate the public about the plight of sharks in the world today.
“Our aim is to inform the NUS population on the reality behind the sharks' fin trade and the endangered status of sharks,” he said.
NUS PEACE, which stands for People Ending Animal Cruelty and Exploitation, is a student animal welfare interest group.
According to figures provided by Project: FIN, up to 73 million sharks are killed every year. As a result, the shark population has plummeted by more than 80 percent in the past 50 years.
To call attention to the plight of these marine animals, the student club collaborated with Project: FIN to organise a road show and two movie screenings at NUS.
The founder of Project: FIN, Jennifer Lee, spoke to the audience about the important role sharks played in the marine ecosystem and the environmental damage caused by the trade and consumption of shark’s fin, at both movie screenings.
“Sharks reproduce slower than most other fishes. They mature late, have long gestation periods, and have few young. The trade is unsustainable,” she said.
According to the Discovery Channel website, almost 70 percent of sharks give birth to their young following a gestation period where the embryo develops inside the female. This duration is about two years long for sharks, compared to a few months for most other mammals.
To educate students about these facts and the shark’s fin trade, members from NUS PEACE spoke to passers-by and handed out fliers at the road show outside Central Library.
The student club estimated that the road show and movie screenings, which were held on Jan. 18 and 19, attracted an audience of 300 and 80 respectively.
Michelle Chong, a fourth-year sociology major, was one of the students who attended both the movie screening and the road show.
“I was really shocked by the truth behind such a traditional Chinese dish,” she said. “I eat it every Chinese New Year without realising the repercussions. Now I know how this may cause the sharks to become extinct.”
Rajasekhar Bala, associate professor of Environmental Science at NUS, said the shark’s fin campaign has helped to spread awareness among students but he was not sure of the long-term impact it would have.
“This shark’s fin campaign on campus is a good start but the change in mindset remains the biggest challenge. The dish still remains popular among Singaporean Chinese during weddings and festive occasions,” he said.
According to the World Wildlife Fund Singapore website, Singapore has the second highest trading volume in shark’s fin after Hong Kong.
In the past few months, however, there have been efforts by major retailers in Singapore, such as Cold Storage, FairPrice and Carrefour, to remove the dish from their inventory.
The move against consuming shark’s fin has also spread globally, with the birth of organisations such as Shark Rescue in the United States and the Hong Kong Shark Foundation.
Project: FIN’s founder, Jennifer Lee, acknowledged the increasing awareness regarding shark’s fin consumption, especially among the future generations.
“Awareness is growing — we are building a global momentum and a future generation of people who will prioritise sustainability over culture. As we progress with time, we need to question if serving shark's fin is a show of wealth, or a show of nonchalance towards sustainability,” she said.