Thursday, March 10, 2011

No more fin soup?

The main food on San Francisco Chinatown’s menus is seafood. A few ingredients the restaurants use are dried shrimp, eggs, scallops, and fried fish stomachs. Shark’s fin is thought of as the prime rib of the Chinese culture. The shark’s fin is used as broth and is a symbol of virility, wealth, and power to the Chinese culture. A bill is in the works to ban the possession of shark fins and serving shark fin soup to customers. As we have learned government intervention [often! -JM] does not allow for the most efficient solution to be found. The problem number of sharks being killed would be decreased, but the costs to the restaurants would not allow MC=MB [unless there are externalities]. This would infuriate the Chinese population of California and could be thought of as racial exclusion act. The bill seeks to limit shark finning, a bloody practice of the global trade in which the fins are typically hacked off a live shark, leaving it to die slowly as it sinks to the bottom of the sea. This practice extracts sharks species at an alarming rate from the ocean. The fisherman’s perspective is, "If I don’t kill this shark someone else will." What would you do? This mindset has caused shark populations to go down, but has also caused fish species, shellfish, and crustaceans populations to decrease gradually overtime. There is a growing demand internationally for shark’s fin soup. It is estimated that 73 million sharks are being killed a year for soup. The problem with economics is it hard to estimate the monetary value of losing the highest member of the food chain in the ocean. The commercial fishermen’s associations, aquariums, chefs, scientists and numerous environmental groups are also stepping up to address the issue. The efficient solution to this problem is to find an agreement that puts the full costs of producing shark fin entrees on producers. There ought to be a way to find a balance between the environment and preserving culture and heritage.
--Justin Guy


  1. The major issue I see here is the disregard and misuse of the animal. I understand shark fin is a Chinese food staple and I believe those who wish to eat it should have the right to. However, to waste the entire animal and simply leave it to die is wasteful and inhumane. As a grandson and nephew of three commercial waterman I have a good understanding of the profession but I question why these fisherman do not use the entire shark. I would imagine there would be some sort of market for the rest of the shark. I expect the negotiations between watermen, environmentalists and interest groups would try to preserve the cultural cuisine, while passing some sort of legislation for sustainable harvesting. Therefore, I hope the Chinese don't loose their prized shark fin soup but a change in harvesting practices is something I would definitely agree with.

    -Ryan Bailey

  2. I understand that shark fins are considered a delicacy for the Chinese population, however sharks are viewed as endangered species by many in the US. Along with tigers and pandas, sharks are some of the most intriguing animals on the planet (hence shark week being created on the discovery channel) and there should be penalties for killing them as there are for other threatened species.

    -Ben Simon

  3. I'm not quite seeing the problem here. I understand that "finning" is the issue but besides looking pretty and making for an awesome week of television... does the shark species offer any specific benefit to society? The under use of the whole shark should definitely be something that is put into effect because... like they say... waste not want not. But, and I know environmentalists will get upset... what is the biggest issue with sharks being killed off? I might be playing devils advocate but it is a valid point.

    - Jeremy Desmond