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- Kirk Lee
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Lee Kirk Keong, or simply known as Kirk, born year 1976 hails from Ipoh, Perak. Although he grew up in Ipoh, Kirk has spent close to 20 years living in the Klang Valley and currently residing at Jalan Damansara. He is a fulltime swimming instructor and since young has a long undying passion for fish and aquariums.
Kirk describes himself as the typical Chineseman who loves good food. One particular dish he always looks forward to was the Shark fins soup. He would every time finish the first serving quickly so he can have a second helping since he only gets to savour it during wedding banquets. The wealthier folks would of course order this dish on a more regular basis, but most people don’t because it is pricey.
It never crossed his mind on how Shark Fins were obtained, harvested and at what rate was the killing. Kirk simply continued with his love for Shark fins soup without any guilt even though he was already a diver. A perfect excuse he would give himself was ‘they are already dead anyway and being Chinese, my mom always teaches us not to waste food... If I don’t eat it, someone else would, I might as well enjoy this delicious soup’.
One day he stumbled upon a video clip on YouTube shot by divers in the Philippines about a juvenile whale shark having had its fins cut off but still breathing and very much alive just waiting to die. Kirk was so moved by the clip he decided to give up eating the dish completely. He went on to read and research on Sharks, the finning process (a cruel practice of cutting the fins off a shark and throwing it back into the sea to slowly die) and found how important Sharks are to the oceans ecosystem and what that means to us, now he is an ardent advocate of shark conservation.
Three days after watching the YouTube clip, Kirk started the Save Our Sharks From A Bowl Of Soup (SOSFABOS) page on Facebook. In less than 6 months the page has a growing global membership of over 10,000 members.
Kirk believes that at the heart of all the killing, cruelty and danger of extinction is the demand of everyday consumers like us for Shark fins soup that drives the fishermen, long line fishing boats, restaurants and the multibillion dollar industry.
Therefore his primary mission is to Save the Sharks by helping others say NO to shark fins through awareness and educational campaigns.
Since beginning his crusade, Kirk speaks freely on how cruel and unsustainable shark fin extraction can be. His strong believe is that rejecting Shark fin soup is not a waste because every time people consume it, they are contributing to the cruelty and pushing sharks ever nearer to extinction. Kirk and fellow shark lover Alicia Tan has since successfully persuaded many couples to remove Shark fins from their wedding banquet and educating their guests by placing a table card which explains why there are no Shark fins on the menu.
During a wedding dinner in June 2010, Kirk managed to persuade 7 other friends at his same table to say No to shark fins, they certainly had one of the restaurant’s Captain’s attention when 8 bowls of soup were returned to the kitchen untouched. It is actions like this that will dampen demands and cause people to re-consider and eventually stop serving the dish. It pays to say No even when served at the table.
Besides spreading the word through Facebook networking and finding every opportunity to share with friends about this Kirk was inspired to produce a PSA about the shark fin crisis. After sharing his thoughts and having garnered interest and excitement from like minded peers, production of the PSA was on the way. Everyone who came forward to contribute including the 13 local celebrities such as Patrick Teoh, Fauziah Latiff, Amber Chia and others, director and the final production were fully volunteered. Finally in March 2011 the PSA was ready for public viewing on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NGqD2vPCWY and currently NTV 7 is airing the PSA daily starting from 20th May for 3 months. Thanks to Ntv7 for being such a generous supporter on the cause.
In the midst of all this Star TV online also interviewed Kirk and Alicia regarding their Shark saving efforts in the online TV news also featuring local celebrities Xandria Ooi and her husband Yuri Wong who were at that time planning for their wedding and outspokenly pledged not to serve Shark fins soup http://thestaronline.tv/v/6090 http://thestaronline.tv/v/6404
He then started a petition against shark finning in Pulau Mabul/Sipadan, Sabah. It was brought to the attention of the divers’ community that fishermen regularly come back with sharks for fins only. There were grave concerns for the reef in the area since healthy reef has sharks but Pulau Mabul and Pulau Kapalai had NONE. Kirk also brought this matter to Star TV online and having shared the same concern decided to take up the story. In March 2011 Kirk and Star TV online went to Pulau Mabul to witness the situation for themselves. After interviewing the local dive centres, other professional individuals and taking shots of the fishermen with the mutilated sharks they landed for fins, the story was broadcasted on Switchup TV. http://thestaronline.tv/v/6922
Since then there were several articles on Star papers regarding the matter, the most recent being the Sabah government proposing to ban Shark hunting in Sabah waters and decided to ban Shark fin soup from all their lunch and dinner functions.
This coming 1-3 July 2011, Kirk heading Save Our Sharks From A Bowl Of Soup is collaborating with Shark Savers, a US based NGO (who successfully spearheaded and implemented Raja Ampat as Shark Sanctuary) by having a booth at the Malaysia International Dive Expo, PWTC. The purpose is to raise awareness among the public about the Shark fin crisis and to garner as many pledges to say No to shark fins.
How Saving Sharks could be part of going green?
Green basically means Sustainability, to save our mother earth and us.
Some history on Shark, they have been on this earth for more than 400 millions year, the oldest predator species alive. More than 100 million years predates the dinosaurs, they survived several mass extinctions before humans came along.
Nature works in ways we may not fully understand. Why would Sharks survive such a long period? Do they play a vital role for this earth?
Sharks are the Apex predator in the all important marine food chain; they control the health of our Ocean’s ecosystem as they strengthen gene pools by eliminating old, sick and dying fishes down the line.
E.g. Salmon Sharks feeds largely on Salmons during the annual Salmon run. Salmon Sharks eliminate the old, sick and weaker Salmons, so only the strongest survive to spawn thus improving the Salmon genes every season.
Studies showed that shark species have declined over 95% along the eastern coast of the US between 1970 and 2005, allowing prey species such as cownose rays to explode in population, leading to the destruction of North Carolina's bay scallop fishery and inhibits the recovery of depressed scallop, oyster and clam populations along the U.S. Atlantic Coast http://www.huliq.com/16973/overfishing-sharks-wiped-out-north-carolina-bay-scallop-fishery
Predators as Prey:
Why Healthy Oceans Need Sharks http://na.oceana.org/sites/default/files/o/fileadmin/oceana/uploads/Sharks/Predators_as_Prey_FINAL_FINAL.pdf
We are harvesting more than 73 million Sharks annually primarily for Shark Fin Soup. We are harvesting faster than Sharks could repopulate. Being an apex predator, nature ensures they do not multiply quickly and be a danger to fish population down the food chain. They are slow to mature at 10 to 30 years (whale shark 30 years above). They have few (certain species up to over 100) pups unlike other fishes that spawn millions of eggs yearly.
The bigger picture is; we all know Photosynthesis is our life source, as it absorbs CO2 and releases O2. But not many are aware that more than 70% of the oxygen comes from the ocean produced by a microorganism call “Phytoplankton”.
When we remove Sharks from the food chain, we are actually killing the ocean’s ecosystem n taking away our life support system “Co2”.
Serving Shark Fin Soup is no longer a Prestige; it is pushing Sharks into Extinction.
Go Green by not being a part of the Shark Fin demand.
We can make a difference.
No matter how small you are, one person can really make a difference if you put your heart to it.
This is the story of Kirk Lee.