Reply To: Hong Kong Disneyland shark fin soup controversy


From Brian Darvell:

Suzanne Gendron [Ocean Park Conservation Foundation] has asked me to pass this to you. As you will see, she has been a little pressed, and managed to get this written at the last minute. I know she has been making efforts to get this resolved.



Dear All,

Thank you for sharing this with me and asking for my response. I did receive a copy of this email from Dr. Darvell and can only say that I have not been able to respond sooner as I’ve been swamped here at the Park with the various meetings, reports and duties as Director. I have been following the shark fin stories closely through emails from Brian Darvell and also the paper when I have a chance to open it. As such, I have been able to discuss with Brian and also advocate with my colleagues at Disney in the US.

Ocean Park has had a policy that predates my arrival in 1998 to not serve shark fin soup. We still feel strongly that there is not a sustainable shark fishery presently and that the level and intensity of shark fin fishing is pushing the sharks quickly towards extinction. It is due to this fishing industry that the landmark inclusion of whale sharks and basking sharks have been added to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix II list. There is evidence that suggests that the whale shark population found off of the Philippines is the same as is found in the Sea of Cortez between Baja California and mainland Mexico. As such, they must be protected on a global scale.

Shark reproduction is not like the teleost (bony, more advanced evolutionarily) fishes. Teleosts are for the most part, extremely fecund animals (meaning they have a high reproductive rate, which they accomplish through the production of thousands of eggs). Sharks on the other hand, have reproductive strategies that are more similar to mammals; fewer young and longer gestation. This is true for even those sharks that lay eggs. As such, they cannot be fished at the level of intensity that the teleost fishes are being fished. And even those cannot sustain the level of fishing we see presently. Over 70% of our fisheries are overexploited and the others are fully exploited. We need to manage our resources more wisely if we are to see them survive.

While it is very difficult to obtain good data on a global fishery without a collaborative effort by many throughout the world, there is strong evidence that the number of sharks has dropped dramatically in the past twenty years. Fisheries studies which support the CITES application for the whale and basking shark can be cited as well as fishermen’s anecdotal stories of the difficulties they have finding the sharks, the smaller sizes of sharks being caught and the fewer species.

Conservation is the wise use of our resources in order to ensure that they are here for a long time. In addition, whenever animals are involved, they should be dealt with in a humane manner. Like the swordfish fisheries in the late 90s, we must give the sharks a chance by not fishing for a few years. Take advantage of that time to study the situation and from the position of scientific data, recommend a sustainable level of take for the various shark species used for soup and for meat. We may find that level is zero!

Sharks are one of the apex predators in the ocean. This means that they are at the top of the food chain. They fulfil a very important role as such. Other creatures in the ocean that are sick or genetically weak will be the first marine animals attacked by sharks. By doing this, they help to prevent diseases spreading rapidly through a school of fish and keep the fish strong. It is important to us as we compete for the fishes as consumers. If a disease should kill an entire population, it not be good for any of us.

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am out of the country beginning Wednesday night and will return in two weeks time.


Suzanne M. Gendron
Foundation Director
Ocean Park Conservation Foundation
The Conservation Arm of Ocean Park