Monday, January 23, 2006

20000 bowls of Shark fin soup?

This image was originally posted at Discovery Channel Online

I was reading Big Ell's post on the biggest wedding ever held in Taiwan. It was the marriage of a local politician's 16 year old son to his 16 year old (and six months pregnant) girlfriend. Not the politician's girlfriend, his son's girlfriend. The feast was held in the neighborhood (Shalu) and had upwards of 20,000 guests.

What I'm wondering is how many sharks were 'finned' to whip up 20 000 bowls of shark fin soup? I found an interesting article called, Shark Fin Soup: An Eco-Catastrophe?

Why be concerned about an appetizer?
Shark-fin soup was just a regional delicacy in Canton, south China, until the late 1980s. The Beijing government had derided shark-fin soup as a symbol of elitism, but it ended this stance in 1987. Increased East Asian affluence quickly made shark-fin soup popular at wedding banquets, birthdays, feasts and business dinners, as a way of honoring guests. The demand has escalated astronomically in the last 15 years, and now it's a standard dish.
But everybody loves a hot bowl of soup.
Shark populations are quickly declining - the dusky-shark population in the U.S. Atlantic has declined 90 percent.
And what exactly is Finning?
Finning refers to the practice of cutting off only the shark fins and discarding the body. Sometimes sharks are dead when they're pulled into the boats, but often, they're still alive as their four fins are cut off with a knife. When they're thrown back into the ocean the sharks either bleed to death, or they drown, because sharks can't swim without fins, and they need to go forward to get oxygen. Divers have discovered hundreds of dead finned sharks at the bottom of the ocean in huge shark graveyards.
How many fins make ten bowls?
(We enter Tung Tai Ginseng Company on Grant Street. A huge glass jar of dried yellow shark fins has a $328 price. We ask a man behind a desk what $328 refers to; he frowns and shakes his head. Suddenly, a woman appears.)

(Woman) "Do you need some help?"

(Murdock) How much do those shark fins cost?

(Woman) $328 per pound.

(Murdock) How many shark fins do you get per pound?

(Woman) About eight pieces.

(Murdock) How many fins do you need to make soup for 10 people?

(Woman) We don't give out that information.

(Murdock, to me as we exit the store): That price is $40 per fin. That makes sense. I've heard bowls of shark-fin soup cost from $10 to $65 in Bay Area restaurants.
The sharks may have the last laugh,
But scientifically speaking, shark fin has little nutritional value--and, in fact, it may even be harmful to health over the long term, as shark fins have been found to contain high levels of mercury.

Extinction and mercury poisoning. Yum.


Bread said...

at least the shark gets some retribution on the eaters of his or her fin. bright side sean, always look for it.

Anonymous said...

Isn't eating shark just an indirect way of eating Australians?