Shark fin soup has traditionally been a must-have among well-to-do Asians and an essential part of the menu at commemorative dinners, such as wedding banquets and New Years celebrations in countries like China, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia.

However, as awareness grows about the precarious situation many species of shark are facing in the wild due to over-harvesting; many Asians – especially young ones –are substituting the shark fin soup with alternative dishes at their celebratory events.

sharkfin Young Asians giving up their shark fin soup to save endangered species

Singaporean groom Han Songguang and his scuba diving bride are just one example of this trend; when they tied the knot in December last year they served their guests lobster soup and placed explanatory postcards depicting a dead shark on each seat.

If we can do our part to save ‘X’ number of sharks … why not?” said Han, a geography teacher.

A symbol of wealth and status in several Asian cultures, shark fin soup consumption has traditionally been a delight available for a comparatively low number of Asian upper-class families only. Hand-in-hand with rising affluence in East Asia and the development of a prosperous middle class segment of society, demand has however soared rapidly in the late 20th and early 21st century and about 20 percent of all shark species are now endangered, partly due to them being over-fished to satisfy the Asian markets.

They live a long time. They have a low reproductive rate. In other words they produce just a few young every year or every few years. So you just can’t take a lot,” says Yvonne Sadovy, a biology professor at the University of Hong Kong.

As more and more young Asians opt for lobsters and other alternatives to shark fins, market demands have dropped noticeably in recent years. After peaking at 897,000 metric tonnes in 2003, the world wide shark consumption has sunk to 758,000 in 2006, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation. British wildlife group TRAFFIC says shark fins now make up an increasingly small percentage of the total consumption.

Students and people in their 20s wouldn’t go to a shark eatery, and $15 for a dish is no cheap price,” says Joyce Wu, programme officer with TRAFFIC.

Shang-kuan Liang-chi, a National Taiwan University student agrees. “University students never go in there,” he says, referring to a shark fin restaurant near campus.

The decline is not only due to shark fins becoming increasingly out of vogue among environmentally concerned youngsters; the global financial crisis and its effects in Asia has caused many Asian to cut down on restaurant visits or order less expensive dishes.

Another sure sign of the declining popularity of shark fin soup in Asian is the menu for Singapore’s Annual Chefs’ Association dinner – it is now completely void of shark fin dishes.

It is much harder to stop serving shark’s fin in our restaurants as the consumers still demand it. However, in our personal capacity, we can make a stand,” said Otto Weibel, a food manager at one of Singapore’s top hotels.