Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >
Oct 13, 2011 03:04 AM

How do you feel about the proposed shark fin ban? (moved from Ontario board)


Most everyone I have spoken to seem to see it in a positive light that a ban on shark fin is being proposed in Toronto. Being Asian, I've had shark fin on several occasions (usually weddings)...I believe many Asians connect shark fin with celebrating happy moments, so some are against banning shark fin.

I wanted to see what CH'er think about this.

  1. non-asian here, i have never had fin, but have had shark -didn't think it was great...but really i don't follow the news about it and so i'm kind of meh about the whole thing

    1 Reply
    1. re: ingloriouseater

      Eating shark meat and eating shark fin are totally unrelated pursuits. Might want to read up on it.

      The ban is an extremely good thing.

    2. Seems to be a point where conspicuous consumption intersects with environmental carnage. Kill demand, save the sharks. I see too much hypocrisy and self-justification from opponents of a ban to take them seriously. Since when did being stupid and irresponsible become cultural prerogatives?

      BTW, why bury a thread relevant to the Ontario/GTA crew over here???

      6 Replies
      1. re: Kagemusha

        has the consumption really increased to a point of endangerment or are there other (environmental as an example) that has led to this endangerment. it would seem to me that the base culture that has been practicing this hasn't really increase THAT much in the past 50 years. one doesn't justify the other but the whole picture needs to be viewed not just one corner of it.

        native americans lived off the bison/buffalo for many years but it was the slaughter by the new settlers that drove the animal to the brink of extinction. oddly it was the food industry that brought the animal back to thrive-albiet mostly as a food source

        1. re: ingloriouseater

          With respect, it's simple: more diners with more disposable income. Income elasticity of demand for luxuries like shark fin soup is high. I'm guessing you're not aware of what's been going on in the Chinese economy for the past 20+ years. Have a look at some basics here for a sense of what's driving the problem:

          There's not much debate on what's pushing shark populations to the brink and its not "other" factors. Can't really explain this away in terms other than rampant demand.

          1. re: Kagemusha

            i guess the conspiracy theorist in me within the 24 news world worries that when one news report gains traction then they all follow suit and we think an epidemic exists where one really doesn't.

            1. re: ingloriouseater

              The boom in a middle income in China has skyrocketed demand way beyond reason. The growing middle class in China is one of the biggest news stories in the world, not a conspiracy.

              1. re: kukubura

                I've been in China for 2 weeks now, the economic growth and opulent consumption here is the scariest thing I've ever seen and way more than I had ever imagined.

        2. re: Kagemusha

          The topic is fairly relevant here in California, as there was a whole bunch of hubbub leading up to the recently signed bill banning the sale, production and possession of shark fin last week.

          It split the Asian delegations in the various legislative bodies here, with some agreeing with the environmental goals and some likening it to cultural discrimination.

          Like another poster mentioned, I'm not sure how much effect this will really have - even if the whole North American continent bans the stuff, there seems to be plenty of demand still there outside this region.

        3. i just never entered into the consumption part of the equation so and somewhat oblivious to the 'endangered' aspect of it-so it never entered my radar. i am not going to beat a drum that i don't know about

          1. The ban is really directed towards the "finning" of sharks....cutting off the fins, then discarding the shark. While that has gotten all the publicity, there is still a legal shark fishery...primarily blacktip and mako in the US. Does this mean that the fins must go to waste? Shark populations are down, and they are slow breeding. Severe restrictions on all shark fishing would make sense...but it does not make sense to ban just a part of a shark.

            10 Replies
            1. re: EricMM


              In California, the ban was much more than just the issue of finning. There were several admendments and proposals that would have curtailed finning or limited fishing for sharks without a complete and total ban on the sale of shark fins but all of them were rejected. And, I've listened to interviews from those involved with this shark fin ban, and it seems that they want to ban the sale of all shark meat in California next.

              The irony is that California passed this ban on all shark fins even though California actually has healthy populations of sharks with the notable and tragic exception of the great white shark.

              1. re: hobbess

                the California law bans shark fin trade, possession and sale in California beginning in 2013. How is that ironic? It isn't just banning fins from sharks caught off of California. The point was not to protect just California's sharks, (and being pelagic creatures, of course, they do travel from one part of the ocean to another), the point was to say that here in California we will not allow a practice that is harmful to the WORLD's oceans. It also was action taken in recognition that, after China, California was one of the world's larger consumers of shark fin. Most of those shark fins consumed in California were most definitely NOT caught in California waters.

                Yes, it is a small step if the practice continues elsewhere (though not as small as I think your post implies given the levels of consumption in Caifornia), but it is an important one, IMO. There has been a strong body of science that has shown that destroying predator populations will strongly harm other species further down the food chain.

                Not sure I understand the point of your first sentence but I hope you aren't dismissing the law merely because amendments were proposed and then rejected. The discussion should be based on what is in the law as passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor. Various special interest groups will always try to tack on additional issues to any bill that is presented and is likely to get attention (as this one always did). However, the important measure of the bill's validity is in the final product.

                I was a strong supporter of the bill, and I am not interested in a ban on all shark meat, it is the indiscriminate finning practice I object to as well as the impact on those species that are threatened or endangered . However, I will say that I've only eaten shark meat a few times and found it distinctly unappealing and not very tasty. I sincerely doubt it would be a product in huge demand were it not for the fins. There are many other species of fish much more worth the bother, from a taste perspective.

                1. re: susancinsf

                  the estimate is that 85% of shark fin consumption in the United States occurs in California.

                  1. re: susancinsf


                    Perhaps, I was being unclear, but my point was that the California legislation banning shark fins wasn't just about trying to control finning because you could have curtailed finning without a total ban on shark fins. There were proposals and amendments on the table that would have addressed the issue of finning without this complete ban on shark fins.

                    Among the proposals were:
                    Calfornia adopting the federal prohibition against finning and only allowing harvesting of non-endangered sharks.
                    A complete ban on foreign fins that didn't comply with federal laws against finning and a ban on the use of shark fins from endangered sharks.
                    Or, a total ban on the importation of foreign fins.
                    Ratcheting up the fines for illegal fins, $10,000 per fin and jail time to disincentize anybody from illegally harvesting sharks or selling fins from sharks illegally harvested.
                    And, then using the money collected from those fines for regulation and education about the role sharks play in the ocean's ecology.

                    These proposals were being made by people who acknowledged the problems of finning and that many sharks being endangered, but were also trying to avoid criminalizing shark fin soup if the fins could be harvested in a sustainable and humane manner.

                    If California blocked the importation of all foreign shark fins and allowed harvesting Calfornia sharks in a sustainable, humane manner where California had enough sharks to support that, then what's so wrong with that?

                    We're acting as if every shark species is endangered. But, worldwide, 20-33%, depending on your sources, are endangered. Why can't California ban finning and ban fins from endangered sharks without passing this complete and total ban regardless if the shark was not finned and is not endangered?

                    1. re: hobbess

                      I'm guessing because the expense, time, and hassle of identifying the actual species of every shark fin that they might question is simply too high to be able to sustain. Labeling? Of course the label will SAY it's from an approved species, but that doesn't mean it's so. So what's left? DNA testing of every single shark fin in the state, made more difficult by the drying process.

                      Far easier on the system as a whole to just ban it outright. While I understand the importance of the dish in tradition and ceremony, the reality is that nobody NEEDS to have shark-fin soup to survive....but we all NEED sharks to keep the ocean ecosystems functioning normally.

                      If the French can give up roasted songbirds for celebratory meals, the Chinese can give up sharkfin soup. (because taking a meal off a Frenchman's table is no small task...)

                      1. re: hobbess

                        because it isn't a realistic response to a very real and very serious problem, that is why.

                        That said, first of all, your last question doesn't quite make sense to me: there isn't a ban on shark meat you know, just on shark fins. Perhaps you meant, " regardless of whether the shark was finned just for its fin or not, and is not endangered"

                        Anyway, the answer is at least two fold: first of all, how the heck would they be able to determine whether the fin came from a shark where the rest of the fish was used, or not? In that regard, keep in mind the market for the rest of the shark meat, at least in California is very, very small compared to the market for the fin. Second: given those two circumstances, everything sunshine842 said. California simply does not have the resources to do DNA testing to tell whether the fin came from an endangered species or not, and how the fin was removed (the issue goes beyond whether the species is endangered; reducing large predators in large numbers can still harm the oceans, and the entire process is *extremely* wasteful and cruel regardless of species of the fish).

                        AB 376, the legislation as chaptered, defines shark fin as:

                        "Section 2021 is added to the Fish and Game Code, to read:
                        2021. (a) As used in this section "shark fin" means the raw,
                        dried, or otherwise processed detached fin, or the raw, dried, or
                        otherwise processed detached tail, of an elasmobranch."

                        In other words, it bans PROCESSED fin. How the heck would we know where that processed fin came from, without testing, as sunshine points out?

                        Now, if there is truly a market for the entire shark (which you appear to suggest there is, and which I dispute), we will soon start to see fresh whole shark (from nonendangered species, and hopefully line caught) for sale in California. What people would do with the shark once they brought it home (ie whether they cut off the fin and used it for a different purpose than the rest of the shark) would be none of my business, nor do I believe it would it be prohibited under the ban. Of course, interestingly enough, the legislation does note in its introductory language that shark is high in mercury. I am guessing that is another reason (apart from the fact that I don't consider it a particularly tasty fish) that it is not popular as a fish meat and is not likely to become popular.

                        1. re: susancinsf


                          That's why the porposals were even proposing banning the importation of foreign shark fins.

                          If you ban importation of shark fins and allowed harvesting of Calfornia sharks in sustainable and humane manner, then all the sharks would be from an approved species unless it came from the great white. And, if it came from a California shark, then it would have meant that sharks couldn't be harvested just for their fins. One of the proposals was to allow only California caught fins to be sold for soup from licensed commercial fishermen who harvested the entire shark for its meat, skin and oils

                          And, the heavy fines that were being proposed would not only disincentivize people from illegally harvesting or selling illegal fins, it would also help generate the funds to pay for that testing.

                          If the issue is the concern that people would try to sneak in illegally harvested foreign fins and mix them with the legal California fins, then that is a fair concern and why I support DNA testing for shark fins just like I support DNA testing for all the seafood being sold in the United States.

                          DNA testing is an additonal expense but its relatively cheap and much more effectvie than past methods, as well as getting cheaper every year. (If the lab already owns the equipement, then it costs the lab less than an dollar to test each sample.)

                          Far too often, consumers in America are buying fraudently mis-labeled seafood. Far example, the mako shark is often mislabeled and sold as swordfish; thresher sharks get sold as swordfish or mahi-mahi.

                          Its an open secret that mis-labeling is a common practice in the seafood industry where fishes are mis-labeled under another species name or mis-labeled origins, to sell a overfished fish as one whose numbers are sustainable or plentiful. If the MBA says that its okay to buy one particular fish from region X but not region Y, then that fish from region Y will be sold as coming from region X.

                          But, does that mean we should stop the sale of all those different types of seafood because they are often mis-labeled, where endangered and non-endangered seafood are mixed up and sold together. At the very least, we need to be doing more DNA testing to stop this.

                          With the high cost of shark fins, it has enough cushion to absorb DNA testing. If we started to do DNA testing for shark fins, then could have been an important precedent to start doing more DNA testing for other seafood.

                          If we weren't talking about shark fins, would you really be against more DNA testing of our seafood?

                          Shouldn't we be concerned about all the endangered seafood, and not just sharks?

                          1. re: hobbess

                            Personally, I am not AGAINST DNA testing for anything. My only statement was that I thought it wasn't a practical solution for California for shark fin, given the cost. It isn't the cost of the test that is a barrier, IMO, it is the cost of the administration of the test. I'd rather see a flat out ban on shark fin pass than a proposed ban get vetoed by the Governor because of the cost. And yes, I believe our current Governor would have vetoed AB 376 if it had included the cost of DNA testing. I am taking politics and the state's dismal economic status into account in my view in this instance.

                            Finally, one more time, as I've said multiple times, but yes, to answer one more time, yes, we should be concerned about endangered seafood, but as I have also said in various posts, the issues go beyond sustainability of species: just taking that many predators out of the ocean is harmful in and of itself. DNA testing and just allowing sharks that are not endangered would NOT solve the problem, IMO, and therefore IMO DNA testing is not the (only) path (or alternative) we should take when it comes to shark fin. Apparently you disagree. That's fine. However, I would strongly urge you to read the National Science Foundation report I linked elsewhere on this link before concluding that i am wrong. The oceans can't afford to have millions of sharks removed. period. Besides, what do you do when three or four or forty years later all of sudden scientists realize that, thanks to millions of fish being removed for fins each year, previously stable populations are now endangered? Put them on the list retroactively and go out to all those stores and restaurants and take the fins back? and then what?

                            As for your statement,

                            "That's why the porposals (SIC) were even proposing banning the importation of foreign shark fins.". ... I am afraid I don't understand this sentence. The ban in California *does* ban importation of foreign shark fins. It bans all processed shark fin (as defined in the statute) regardless of source, foreign or domestic.

                            Sorry, but to the extent I think I understand your point (and frankly, I am not sure I do understand it) we will just have to disagree. As near as I can make out, your point is that if we can't or won't do something about all of the endangered fish, we shouldn't do anything about any of them, or specifically, about sharks. Nothing could be further from my point of view. Because they are apex predators, and because they are taken in such large numbers, I care as much or more about the fate of sharks as any other species, and thus I do think that it makes sense to address the issues regarding shark finning even if we don't address it for other fish. In NO WAY does that mean I wouldn't like to see the issues addressed more generally.

                            You appear to disagree with my point of view that we have to start somewhere even if we can't solve every problem in one fell swoop or one ban in California or worldwide. so be it. I admire your idealism but am afraid that on these issues I tend to come down on the side of practicality; I also tend to believe that big movements can and often should start with small beginnings.

                            1. re: susancinsf

                              >>I also tend to believe that big movements can and often should start with small beginnings.<<

                              Yao Ming (former NBA great) has been a spokesman for WILDAID in promoting more awareness concerning the shark fin issue. I hope his voice can be the beginning of which greater things will eventually come.


                              1. re: susancinsf

                                If anything, I believe in steps too and not trying to solve every problem in one big ban or fell swoop.

                                So that's why I would liked to see California try to find some common ground to keep shark fin soup legal while trying to stop finning and stop killing endangered sharks which I don't feel that the people behind this shark fin ban even tried to do.

                                It never seemed like those proposals and amendments were ever given a fair shot, where they were written off even before they were ever attempted. DNA testing is written off as too expensive, ignoring that the amendments had ratcheted up the fines to help pay for these costs.

                                And, if they didn't work, then come back with something as drastic like the California law.

                                Yes, I understand the California shark fin ban is total and absolute, banning both foreign and domestic shark fins.

                                But, I brought up that a proposed amendment that differed from the California's law where foreign fins were banned while allowing domestic fins because it addressed some of the concerns raised about whether or not the fins would come from endangered species and if the sharks would have been finned just to get those fins.

                                Finally, if your point is that we need to stop harvesting sharks, regardless if its finned or endangered, because its an apex predators then doesn't mean we should stop harvesting all apex predators?

                                Then, that means we should stop fishing for tuna, swordfish, etc... and not just sharks because they're all apex predators.

                                Not only should the bluefin tuna be banned, but all the tuna we currently eat should be banned.

                                And, by banning tuna and swordfish, you'd be saving a lot of sharks which are killed each each not because they were finned but because they were caught up as bycatch when fishermen fish for tuna and swordfish. Just in the Mediterraenan, 100,000 sharks are killed every year as bycatch by fishermen trying to harvest tuna and swordfish.

                  2. Part of the challenge right now is that the fishery depends on wild stocks, which aren't doing very well. It's a great business opportunity for anyone who can figure out how to run a profitable, large scale shark farm. It hasn't been done yet, and so you end up with a lot of overfishing and "not-so-accidental" shark bycatch.

                    Just imagine the sheer size of the environmental impact study, let alone the actual farm! Maybe that's coming later rather than sooner.

                    A ban might be the politically popular move, but with a natural resource like this, I think it's just a matter of time before the price goes high enough that A) it again excludes that burgeoning middle class, and B) shark farming becomes economically viable. Banning shark fin in Toronto might have some tiny impact given the the size and wealth of the market, but it's just a drop in the bucket relative to global demand. More symbolic than practical.