Wed, 23 Jul 2003

Sharks and the environment

This is with reference to Sia Ka-Mou's letter in The Jakarta Post on July 16 that seems to be a defense of the consumption of shark fin (vis-a-vis a personal attack on Robert Go). Assuming that it is a defense, however, here is my rebuttal:

Sia Ka-Mou talks about controlled and selective fishing and finning being needed to sustain the ocean ecosystem from shark overpopulation. Big words... which try to camouflage an abysmal ignorance. What overpopulation is he talking about? These are the facts: Over 100 million sharks are killed annually, mostly for their fins (against, incidentally, an average of 5.4 -- five point four -- humans who die of shark attacks every year).

If this continues, it leaves this 450 million year old animal with barely a few more decades of existence. And, given the vital role they play in the ocean food chain, eliminating them is bound to have wide-ranging repercussions -- as the Newsweek article that Sia Ka-Mou refers to has stated.

Sia Ka-Mou's concern for the livelihood of those connected with the shark fin industry, is, I'm sure, well-meant. But he misses the point that Robert Go was trying to make: That the larger issue at stake is the environment. Divers, unlike shark fin restaurateurs, do not aid in the wanton destruction of sharks; they (and everybody else associated with the sport) offer an alternative that preserves both sharks as well as, ultimately, humans.

Education is, and always will be, the antidote to the kind of bigotry that people that Sia Ka-Mou demonstrate. I strongly advise that he visit sites such as: or to get a better idea of the kind of soup that sharks are really in.

Rajesh Menon