Someone recently posted an article about how an aquarium in Taiwan is hosting a whale shark. The article seemed to suggest that the Taiwanese are becoming more environmental, especially when it comes to sharks.
I laugh at this suggestion. Don't be fooled.
As much as we wish Taiwanese would take more of a serious look at environmental issues, the fact remains that their old habits die hard, particularly about food, which Taiwanese are obsessed with. Shark fin is and will be on the table for some time to come. Taiwanese brutally slaughter sharks by the hundreds to get these fins for Chinese restaurants all over.
Read my previous shark blog entry
To understand the Taiwanese position, take for example some discussions I have had. I have talked to Taiwanese friends on numerous occasions about Canada's seal hunt and Japanese hunting whales for 'research' purposes. Why kill the cute little seals they say? I say it's to control the seal population so that fish stocks don't get too low. Still not ok. When it came to Japanese whaling, they said this the right of Japanese since whale is tradition food for Japanese (which flies in the face of what Western people feel about the whale hunt).
When I turned to shark hunting, the Taiwanese also turned a blind eye. They've always caught sharks. Sharks eat us so why shouldn't we eat them first, they said. Besides, they're delicious in soup.
To top it off, I'll leave you with a comment I heard from an avid young Taiwanese surfer friend. I asked if there were worries about sharks in the water around Taiwan where he was surfing.
To this he answered, with a smile that conveyed that it was a typical Taiwanese answer to the question, that there are no sharks in the waters around Taiwan. Taiwanese sharks can only be found on Taiwanese restaurant tables! (I am such a silly guy, of course I should know this.)
He continued to smile after cracking the 'joke,' perhaps thinking of chowing down on that perfect bowl of shark fin soup. Unknownst to him, he had given me a perfect example of the mentality Taiwanese are up against when it comes to the shark fin trade that they are unwilling to give up.