CELEBRITY chef Gordon Ramsay - not a man known for mincing his words - says it tastes of nothing.
Yet its lack of flavour has done little to slow the trade in shark fin within Australia. Neither have concerns about ''live finning'' - the barbaric process where the high-priced fins are sliced off and the wounded shark dumped back into the ocean.
The UN Environment Program says up to 73 million sharks are killed each year to support the global fin market, leaving many species under threat.
In Australia, conservationists warn laws to protect sharks from live finning lag behind other parts of the globe, and federal checks on the fin trade are poor.
Sharks caught in Australian waters are managed under a patchwork of regulations and while some fin eaten here is imported, no official record is kept of how much is brought in and whether it came from live-finned fish.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society campaigner Tooni Mahto said the country does not have good enough systems in place to ensure the law is complied with.
''We should be banning both export and import of fin,'' she said.
Shark fin is primarily used in Chinese shark fin soup. Although the broth around it may be tasty, Ramsay says the gelatinous fin itself has no flavour. The outspoken TV chef has joined a band of activists fighting against live finning who had a big symbolic win with a decision by the ruling Chinese State Council to ban shark fin soup at official banquets. It follows four states in the US, including California, banning shark fin consumption outright.
In Australia, 208 restaurants serve shark fin soup, a list compiled by the Australian Anti Shark Finning Alliance reveals.
Online menus show the dish for sale at the Fat Buddha restaurant in Sydney for up to $118 a bowl, and at Shark Fin House in Melbourne for $60. Spokesmen for each restaurant said their supplies came from Australia, but declined to give any further details.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said no specific track was kept of fin imports. Products from shark, skates and rays can be brought into Australia without a permit.
A leading shark-fishing group agreed there was a knowledge gap. ''We have no idea of how much fin is consumed in Australia, let alone its original source,'' said Anthony Ciconte, of the Southern Shark Industry Alliance.
What is known is that 178 tonnes of fin from tens of thousands of sharks was exported last year. At a retail price of $700 a kilogram the export market is valued at $124 million. Federal and some state laws demand any shark caught here must land with its fins on. But a survey by the marine conservation society found gaps in the law, with fishers in three states and the Northern Territory allowed a ''ratio'' of fins to sharks.
''This is a compliance nightmare,'' Ms Mahto said. ''Assuming the inspectors were there, how would they ever have the resources to match a boatload of fins with the sharks they are meant to have come from?''
Mr Ciconte said fishers operating far from port needed to process their sharks before freezing their catches, and that Australia's fisheries were regarded overall as among the best managed in the world.
He said meat from sharks on the International Union for Conservation of Nature threatened species red list was being imported into Australia and sold as flake, protected by weak labelling laws and confusing import codes.
''Our fins … should have a market advantage overseas as they are from a sustainable source. But the businesses that practise illegal finning overseas have created such a problem that even our fins are not trusted.''