Shark fin soup is
delicious deplorable. Up to 70 million sharks are killed annually for their luxurious fins. Alice Waters knows this all too well. Today, California Assembly Members Paul Fong and Jared Huffman introduced a bill that would prohibit the sale of shark fins in California, which is "one of the largest sources of demand for shark fin outside Asia."
But, for some, like mayoral candidate Senator Leland Yee, shark fins are an important part of Asian cultural cuisine. During a press conference in Chinatown today, Yee publicly opposed the bill. The Examiner reports: "Yee acknowledged that shark finning is an issue, but argued that there are ways to handle the practice other than completely banning their consumption, which he described as 'the latest assault on Asian cultural cuisine.' "
Yee suggests that, since some sharks are "well-populated," they should be "sustainably fished." Sustainability, however, is easier said than done -- especially when it comes to sharks. In her excellent article for Time, "Shark-Fin Soup and the Conservation Challenge," Krista Mahr reports:
Sharks populations can't withstand commercial fishing the way more fecund marine species can. Unlike other fish harvested from the wild, sharks grow slowly. They don't reach sexual maturity until later in life — the female great white, for example, at 12 to 14 years — and when they do, they have comparatively few offspring at a time, unlike, say, big tunas, which release millions of eggs when they spawn. (Not that overfishing has left big tunas in much better shape than sharks, but that's another story.) As a result, the sharks that are netted are either adolescents that have not had a chance to reproduce or are among the few adults capable of adding new pups to the mix — and never will. "The shark stock on the Great Barrier Reef was hit hard when fishing started in earnest here 30 years ago, and it hasn't recovered at all," says [Richard Fitzpatrick, a filmmaker and marine biologist who studies shark behavior on the Great Barrier Reef].
With regard to the soup's popularity and importance in Asian culture, Mahr further explains: