By Jerome Carlo R. Paunan
MANILA—Jimmy Ong, a middle-aged businessman from Binondo loves the taste of sharksfin soup. He loves it so much that everytime he eats out at his favorite food establishment serving.
Chinese delicacies, the rich, exotic soup is always number one on his menu.
For some of us unfamiliar with this exotic and quite expensive delicacy made primarily from shark’s fin, the soup has been a popular item of Chinese cuisine since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and is usually served at special occasions like banquets and weddings by the rich and affluent.
In modern times, however, the demand for sharksfin soup have steadily increased especially in the Asian Region. The popularity of the soup, meanwhile, has been further fueled by some unfounded claims that it has anti-cancer properties and may increase virility in men.
Ong narrates how he loves everything about the soup, its chunky and rich taste, nutritional value, its medicinal claim, and yes, for him the seemingly other magical benefits the liquid food provides.
But the way Ong enjoys his favorite soup will soon come to an end. This, after Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo filed a bill prohibiting the sale of foods and foodstuffs that may contain ingredients made or derived from sharks and manta rays.
If House Bill 174 pushes through, it will soon be illegal to slaughter, sell and export sharks and manta rays in the country, including any products which may contain them.
“It is important to note that the human appetite for shark’s fin soup and meat has led to the collapse of the shark and ray population considering that these species are particularly vulnerable because they grow slowly and live as long as 100 years, hence, they have low reproductive rates and low natural mortality making them prone to extinction,” Mrs. Arroyo said in explaining the urgency of the bill.
She also noted that government should recognize the valuable contribution these creatures provide to maintain the balance in the ecology and to the steadily growing eco-tourism indusrty in the country.
“It is important to note that the human appetite for shark’s fin soup and meat has led to the collapse of the shark and ray population considering that these species are particularly vulnerable because they grow slowly and live as long as 100 years, hence, they have low reproductive rates and low natural mortality making them prone to extinction,” she then noted.
“Over the years, these marine species are in danger of disappearing from ours waters. The population of these sharks and rays declined significantly due to over fishing, human consumption, habitat destruction, pollution due to mercury poisoning and the impact of climate change,” she continued.
So, if the bill is ever approved into law, Ong and several thousand other soup connoisseurs, particularly those who crave for sharksfin, will face up to 12 years imprisonment and a fine of not less than P100,000 up to P1 million.
Moreover, the bill directs the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), to form a masterlist of protected species of sharks and manta rays.
Meanwhile, the bill also empowers the Department of Tourism (DOT), Philippine Council for Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD), and all concerned Local Government Units (LGUs) to identify all locations to be declared protected tourism areas.