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March 2009    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 35, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Get Shark Fin Soup off U.S. Restaurant Menus

from the March, 2009 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

If you call Chinese restaurants in your area, you’ll most likely find some that serve shark fin soup. We called three restaurants in Sacramento, CA, and they all served it. Of the four we called in San Francisco, two served it. Olivia Wu, former food writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, told us: “The Chinese restaurants I know in the Bay Area are feeling little pressure. The Chinese community is just barely getting wind of the environmental effects. The Chinese, as a culture, haven’t been particularly receptive to nature conservancy of any type. If you look at elephant tusks, rhinoceros tusk, etc., the Chinese have basically eaten and used them to extinction.”

So this is not a problem isolated to Hong Kong or Shanghai. Shark fin soup is available throughout the U.S., made perhaps from the fins of sharks from one of your favorite diving places, like Cocos Island. But you can stop its sale, as did one of our fellow scuba divers, whose story is profiled in the San Diego Union Tribune.

When Carl Robbins (San Diego, CA) read the Chinese New Year menu in an ad from Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino, shark fin soup was proudly featured. Outraged, he sent e-mails to Barona and alerted fellow scuba divers, offering Web sites and documentaries details why it’s inhumane to offer such a menu item. In his e-mail to Barona’s executive chef Dean Thomas, he explained his stance.

“ . . . .The negative impact seen in our world’s oceans through the ruthless slaughter of sharks for nothing more than their fins has been well-documented. It is a practice that has long been identified with organized crime, not to mention the inhumanity toward the sharks as well as the enormous impact to our oceans and therefore to our world. . .The Native Americans associated with the Barona culture often emphasize their natural heritage and strong association with the natural world. As their ancestors would never tolerate such blatant waste and destruction, neither should the living sons and daughters of the Barona Band of Mission Indians. You can help make a difference in maintaining healthy oceans, and therefore a healthy world, through the simple act of not purchasing and then providing shark fins at this celebration.”

E-mails from Robbins and others drew an immediate response from Thomas, who removed shark fin soup from Barona’s Chinese New Year menu and wrote, “I can only state embarrassment in the decision to menu this ‘culture’ item with our Asian New Year Celebration. I totally agree with the belief and can assure you (I) will support the education of our planet’s sustainability in all the ways possible as a chef. Please forgive my mistake and oversight on this occasion. We have removed shark fin soup from our menu.”

Want to do something to stop the slaughter of sharks? If you live near any metropolitan area, it’s likely that many Chinese restaurants there will have shark fin soup on their menu. Follow the lead of your fellow diver Carl Robbins and let them know about their culinary sins.

- -Ben Davison

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