In Japan, shark fin soup, or fukahire, is regarded as a status symbol and delicacy. The shark finning industry in Japan feeds Chinese demand – and it is literally driving sharks to extinction, as the fins are hacked and the bodies discarded at sea.
In Shibuya, the heart of Tokyo, Spanish artist Pejac has created street art to embody this shifting paradigm. The sculpture shows a shark fin emerging from the floor, with bite marks as it ascends.
Unlike evocative street art, the sculpture is not an unofficial tourist attraction of aesthetic value: it merely represents his views on Asian issues. Pejac intends to dissuade shark-fin consumers from supporting the massacre.
Symbolically, the artwork represents the impact of humans towards these apex predators. Ironically, although the ascending fin is associated with danger, this sculpture highlights how we are damaging their populations. Pejac evokes a sense of grief of our actions and pity for the sharks.
Currently, 100million sharks are killed every year, exceeding the 4.9% limit for maintaining population stability. Japan’s guilt lies in Kesennuma, the largest shark finning operation in Asia, which accounts for 90% of Japan’s shark fin trade.
Inevitably, the decrease in shark populations could disrupt ocean ecologies – fewer sharks means more fish, leading to consumption of more zoo plankton that are vital to sustaining the entire marine system. Culinary tradition should not supercede ecological concerns, as although our consumption habits have allowed us to dominate Earth, continuing will only lead to our destruction.
Street art are symbols of political opposition, and serve to enhance our critical skills. Therefore, travelling smarter should constitute a comprehensive understanding of situations, thereby allowing us to appropriately interpret such symbols and act pertinently – such as by boycotting shark fin products.
So, will you still be eating shark fin soup? I certainly won’t.