Skip to comments.With Shark Fin Ban, a Slice of Asian Culture Ends in California
Posted on 07/03/2013 9:24:47 PM PDT by nickcarraway
An ancient Asian dining tradition comes to an end in California on Monday, and grocer Emily Gian is none too happy.
Gian has slashed prices on shark fins, the astoundingly expensive ingredient of a coveted and ceremonial soup, in hopes she will sell out before a California ban on sale or possession of the delicacy takes effect.
"The law is unfair," said Gian, whose store in Los Angeles' Chinatown sells shark fins for $599 a pound. "Why single out Chinese people in California when shark fins are legal in many other states?"
Across town, retired science teacher Judy Ki offers an answer.
Ki grew up in a wealthy Hong Kong family that served steaming bowls of shark fin soup to honor guests at birthdays, banquets and weddings. These days, she sees the delicacy in historical context.
Shark fin soup dates to the Ming Dynasty, when it was reserved for emperors as a symbol of status and power over the most dangerous predators. "Back when it was quite a physical feat for a fisherman to land a shark, it was the ultimate symbol of yang, or male energy," said Ki, a spokeswoman for the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance.
It certainly wasn't prized for its flavor, which is almost nonexistent. Its chief culinary merit is an ethereal, gelatinous texture, achieved through careful drying, precise trimming and a complex preparation method that takes several days. For flavor, cooks often add chicken or ham.
As China's middle class grew in recent decades, the number of people who could afford the delicacy rose sharply. To meet growing demand, the fishing industry found a particularly cruel way to harvest several million fins each year. Fishermen slice the fins off live sharks and throw the crippled animals back into the sea to drown.
An estimated 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins, which can sell for more than $2,000 a pound in California. The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that the populations of some shark species, such as hammerheads, have been reduced by as much as 90 percent in recent years.
Ki finds that morally wrong. "It is not right to slaughter massive numbers of sharks for a bowl of soup that lasts five minutes," Ki said. "Culture evolves. Extinction lasts forever."
Gian and others who are skeptical of the ban do have a point, however. It can seem unfair to ban shark fins in California while chefs and grocers in other states continue sales unfettered.
The state, and supporters of the ban, hope that will change.
"This is an important milestone in the global campaign to end shark finning," said Aimee David, director of conservation policy at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. "California's example has inspired several states to act, and we hope many others will follow suit."
So far, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland and Delaware, and the Pacific territories Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands, have also enacted legislation prohibiting the sale of shark fins. New York is pursuing similar legislation.
Korean Airlines Co. and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. have stopped carrying shark fins as cargo. Even the Chinese government has announced that it will phase out fins from official functions within three years, according to the U.S. Humane Society.
Despite protests from some Chinese American leaders, California Gov. Jerry Brown outlawed the possession, sale and distribution of shark fins 18 months ago. Stores were allowed to sell existing stocks until Monday. Violators could face penalties of up to six months in prison and fines up to $1,000, authorities said.
In January, a legal challenge in federal court by San Francisco merchants who claimed that the ban is unconstitutional and discriminatory toward Chinese culture was resolved in favor of the ban. The court found that the law was within the state's authority, based on findings that the decline of sharks is a threat to the marine ecosystem and that the ban would help eliminate the demand for shark fins.
Since then, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and supporters of the ban - including the Humane Society and the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance - have been reaching out to Chinese American communities across the state, reminding them about the new law and its consequences.
Chinatown is in the last days of preparation.
Across the street from Gian's shop, Wing Hop Fung Ginseng & China Products was down to its last three bins of dried shark fins, including one marked by an eye-catching sign: "Father's Day Special! 20 percent off. $999 a pound."
At the nearby Ocean Seafood, where shark fin soup costs $42 a bowl - $138 when combined in a pot with a whole chicken - manager Dennis Fong said the restaurant was changing its menus this week to remove the item.
Some Chinese restaurants are cooking up "faux" recipes that replace shark fin with non-endangered seafood.
As for Gian, she still had a lot of fins to move.
"Maybe we'll reduce the prices even more, or eat them ourselves, or maybe move them to a state where they are still legal," she said.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/06/29/3477095/with-shark-fin-ban-a-slice-of.html#storylink=cpy
I wonder if Bloomberg has banned Sharkfin. I have had Sharkfin soup in CA and in HK. No problem eating it. I am not too keen on the idea of just cutting a fin off a shark, but that may be liberal propaganda. I made shark tacos last week w/o the Sharkfin.
I don’t like seafood outside the occasional tuna sandwich. I do miss the dolphin though.
will dog be next?
I have seen videos of fishermen cutting off the fins and tossing the rest of the shark overboard, which is a sickening waste of food (for humans at least, I’m sure other fish think it grand). If the Chinese love shark fin soup so much, let them raise sharks in captivity.
Apparently no one in Sacramento got the memo to NOT drink the bong water.
I’m a big fan of Asian cuisine, and tried shark fin soup for the first time about 5 years ago.
Meh. The article’s right, it doesn’t have much flavor in and of itself. I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat it again, but I find the idea of banning it absurd.
Blue states without exception. What a shock.
I’ve had sharkfin soup, years ago. Nothing to write home about. I’m ready to let this recipe die. Maiming an animal to get one part of it for food is not only wasteful, it is unnecessary torture. There something about that in the Bible, IIRC— that you can’t just cut off the limb of an animal to eat and leave the creature to die slowly.
I think it is a waste of food as well ... But I doubt it is the case that people waste the rest of the shark. If that was the case, shark would be cheaper than haddock and cod in the supermarket. I think the footage that you and I have seen is simple liberal, Green Peace propaganda.
We can take issue with the numbers cited, but not that the practice occurs.
“The law is unfair,” said Gian, whose store in Los Angeles’ Chinatown sells shark fins for $599 a pound. “Why single out Chinese people in California when shark fins are legal in many other states?”
Why? Because you keep electing liberal nanny staters into office, ya nimrod!
Exactly. Humans, as the caretakers of the planet (not in the enviroweenie sense, but in the Biblical dominion sense), have a responsibility to not engage in such wanton barbarity. If we really feel we need those fins, the least we can do is club the shark to death before slicing them off.
Not that I have any use for any part of a liberal, probably diseased........
I have a contract to deliver mackerel and not shark. So I throw over the shark, the bluefish, the rockfish, the halibut and so on.
The shots cutting off the shark fins is true. To sell shark fins, they need to cut them off, but they do not show on the videos what happens to the shark end to end in the video. I know for certain that if they are just cutting off shark fins to fill their holds that they would be out for years until they come back to port. With fishing vessels the size shown in the video it would be a waste of money to send the out for just fins.
>> I have had Sharkfin soup in CA and in HK.
Maybe you got the real thing in H.K but that’s pretty rare in Asia, especially for foreigners.
one gets the feeling that in asia the label isn’t necessarily
Whatever. Liberals take the side of murders, commies, pedophiles, socialists and now sharks. No surprise here.
Not to demean the post. I just wanted to demean lefty d*baggers.
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