Sunday, 6 March 2011

Giving Sharks Some Reprieve

Shark fins drying on the sidewalk in Western District

A bill was recently introduced in California, Oregon and Washington State to not only ban the sale and possession of shark fin but also to serve it.

Reaction in San Francisco's Chinatown was mixed, with allegations that the ban amounted to "the Chinese Exclusion Act in a bowl" from those who sold shark fin and served it, while the younger generation embraced the bill.

The piece of legislation, which is similar to the one in Hawaii, is meant to stop the practice of shark finning, where fins are hacked off live sharks and then they are thrown back into the ocean to die a slow death.

In Hong Kong, there has been a renewed uproar over the continued sale of shark fin in the last few months, when a British photographer took pictures of thousands of shark fins laid out on the sidewalk to dry in Western district.

However, the government hasn't done or said anything to curtail it. Some companies publicly declare they will not order the thick soup at banquets, but upscale hotels and Chinese restaurants continue to have it on the menu. Hong Kong's Disneyland seems to be the only one saying it doesn't serve shark's fin for banquets, and while the decisive decision hurt business in the beginning, environmentally aware wedding couples are still keen to hold their nuptials there.

It's an uncomfortable balancing act the city is doing as market demands outweigh environmental ones, even if scientists claim as much as 90 percent of the shark species have disappeared as 73 million sharks are killed each year.

The Hong Kong government doesn't seem willing to put its foot down to take a stand on the issue (apparently Hong Kong handles 50 to 80 percent of the world's shark fin trade) so it's going to be up to consumers to make the choice with their wallets.

Personally if the soup was placed in front of me, I wouldn't refuse it. It's more about the flavour of the broth than the actual shark fin, which does prove the culinary skills of the chef.

I would never order it -- mostly because I can't afford it. These days the cheap shark fin soups have tiny strands of shark's fin mixed in with other ingredients. I remember the days of having a bowl of clear chicken broth seasoned with Chinese ham and in it a thick chunk of shark fin.

Those days are long gone and probably never to return.

1 comment:

  1. it is about time we put an end to the myth of this chinese age old delicacy at the expense of 73 million lives of sharks. but i still hear to the contrary- sharks are predators eaten up a lot of other small fishes. killing them would save the rest of the food chain.