As a follow-up to my food lecture last Thursday, The New York Times today published a story about the global campaign against shark fin soup. Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, parts of Canada, and now California have all banned the sale or possession of shark fins. The article mentions that, “In an increasingly prosperous Asia, the market for the soup has grown drastically, causing overfishing around the globe. The presence of the once-common hammerhead in large parts of the western Atlantic, for example, has decreased by up to 89 percent over the last 25 years.” The article also mentions the Yao Ming public service advertisement for WildAid that I mentioned in lecture. As a result of WildAid’s campaign, shark fin consumption has declined by a third in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, though it continues to grow in China. Here’s the Yao Ming ad, from Youtube:
An earlier report, last March, focused on some of the cultural politics swirling around California’s (then) proposed ban on the sale or possession of shark fins:
“No shark’s fin soup, you’re cheap,” said Mrs. Li, summing up the prevailing ethos toward the steamy glutinous broth, for centuries a symbol of virility, wealth and power.
But in a move that has infuriated Mrs. Li and others in this community, a bill recently introduced in the California Legislature would ban the sale and possession of shark fins, including the serving of shark’s fin soup. Down the rickety alleyways and produce-laden byways of San Francisco’s Chinatown, some see the proposed law as a cultural assault — a sort of Chinese Exclusion Act in a bowl….
Charles Phan, the 48-year-old executive chef of the widely acclaimed restaurant the Slanted Door, was weaned on the soup, cooked by his Chinese mother in Vietnam. But he has come out in favor of the fin ban, much to the chagrin of many Asian colleagues. “The real message is not to eat the soup,” he said. “Times have changed. When the ocean is decimated, you just can’t afford to eat it.”…
Mrs. Li of Chung Chou City is irate about the bill, albeit politely, predicting a domino effect in Chinatown (or the mah-jongg tile equivalent). “If the government stops shark fin,” she said grimly amid her dried marine bounty, “next will be the fish stomach.”
Jennifer Cheung, 27, an industrial designer, refused the soup at her family New Year’s dinner, trying — in vain, she said — to explain the importance of the ecosystem to her elderly uncle, a Chinese herbalist. “It was, ‘Oh, Jennifer’s being a hippie,’ ” she said. “I come from a culture where food is very important,” she continued. “But I think this is a very hefty price to pay just for a bowl of soup.”