Thai TV star Pong Nawat Kulrattanarak and the new campaign to save sharks. Photo: WildAid

One of Thailand’s best-known TV stars has joined the fight against shark-fin soup, an Asian delicacy blamed for the slaughter of tens of millions of sharks in Asian seas every year.

Pong Nawat Kulrattanarak, who is also a passionate diver, released a video to coincide with Shark Awareness Day on July 14 as part of a campaign by WildAid.

The new campaign, called #ฉลองไม่ฉลาม #NoSharkFin, has been endorsed by Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources. Pong’s video called “Speak for Sharks” shows some of the cruelty behind shark-fin consumption and urges the public not to consume or serve shark fin at weddings, family gatherings, business meetings or any other celebratory events.

“Encountering sharks during my dive brings me extreme joy and makes that moment the highlight of my day. In recent years, sighting sharks in the ocean has become more and more difficult. Sharks are vital to the balance of the ocean’s ecosystem and we need to realize that before it’s too late. I urge everyone to say no to shark fin and all shark-related menus, and help protect the oceans by making ‘NoSharkFin’ the new norm for all occasions,” he said.

According to WildAid’s 2017 report on Shark Fin Demand in Thailand, more than half of urban Thais have eaten shark fin and 61% plan to consume it again in the future. Survey respondents said they consumed shark fin most often at weddings (72%), family meals at restaurants (61%) and business meetings (47%).

A shark-fin soup outlet in Thailand. Photo: Tim Howard/WildAid

At the campaign launch, Dr Vicharn Ingsrisawang, director of the Department of Fisheries’ Marine Fisheries and Research and Development Division, said he thought it was more honorable for people to not eat shark-fin at special occasions.

An estimated 100 million sharks are killed every year and fins from up to 73 million of those end up in shark fin soup. Thailand is home to an active domestic market for fins, with many consumers unaware of the cruel practice of “finning” behind each bowl of shark fin soup: a shark’s fins are often cut off at sea and the shark is thrown back into the water to die.

The campaign’s goal is to raise awareness to change consumer attitudes towards sharks and shark fin consumption.

Sopon Thongdee, deputy director-general of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, said: “Apex predator sharks maintain balance in the marine ecosystem. They are indicators of ocean’s good health just like tigers are indicators of a healthy forest. But today, the worlds’ sharks are facing a threat of extinction and only we can help them. While we still have sharks to protect, we need to educate the younger generation on the issue and persuade the older generations who believe shark-fin soup is a luxurious delicacy to say no to consuming shark-fin for our oceans’ health.”

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