"Sharks Left for Dead," Feature, 3/16
It's long past the time for the human race to give up many of their fond "cultural traditions." Before there were countless billions of us on the planet, shark fins, tiger penis, whales, etc., could be harvested in a sustainable manner. Here in North America the Inuits are unwilling to give up their ancestral whale-hunting rights. However, our ancestors could not have envisioned factory boats, large-caliber rifles, explosive harpoons, or the notion of bycatch. I am all in favor of each of us keeping our cultural traditions alive, with the proviso that hunters and fisherman stick to their ancestral ways of hunting. When hunters set to sea in unsafe little dhows and sealskin boats, and if indeed, every part of the animal is used, then I will be more accepting of cultural traditions.
Brian O'Neil, El Cerrito
Not Just Fins
All the right legislation is in place for the Galapagos (shark fin exports are illegal, as are shark fishing and longlining) but shark populations continue to plunge. Schools of three hundred hammerhead sharks are now rare, though visitors are happy to see thirty sharks.
If we want our children to still be able to see hammerheads when they visit the Galapagos in another few decades, we need a complete ban that will be simple to enforce. This ban can always be lifted or modified when shark populations recover a bit.
After we pass our shark fin ban, we still have to persuade other countries like Hong Kong and China to pass similar legislation. Let's do the best we can while this is in our hands.
As a Chinese immigrant from Singapore and Hong Kong who grew up eating shark fin soup, I do not perceive the shark fin ban to be a cultural attack at all. Shark fin is not a cultural delicacy that has been singled out to be banned — foie gras has already been banned. Even China is considering a ban on shark fin trade: Ding Liguo, deputy to the National People's Congress, proposed that China's top legislature ban the trade of shark fin.
I urge everyone to e-mail your assemblymember and senator in support of the shark fin ban (Assembly Bill 376). More information is at SharkSavers.org/en/blogs/722-support-needed-california-shark-fin-bill.html and PostHumanAnimal.blogspot.com.
As to the comment that sharks aren't huggable like pandas, I was amazed to see these friendly sharks who like being petted and hugged: YouTube.com/watch?v=slsIfINSKNU.
Hugging pandas, on the other hand, is definitely not recommended.
Yvonne Chu, San Francisco
Stop the Barbarism
Thank you for your article pointing out the cruelty and ecological harm caused by people consuming shark fin soup. The only disagreement I have is that it is totally false that "[e]nvironmentalists recognize that longlining ... is here to stay" and that we only want "fishermen to tie their hooks with nylon." Longlining is a hideously destructive practice that, as your article points out, kills large amounts of animals not intended to be caught, such as turtles and birds. Along with bottom trawling, it amounts to strip-mining the oceans. We have won victories in places like California and Hawaii that have prohibited longlining in order to save these animals from needless deaths. No real environmentalist would ever resign him- or herself to accepting this immoral killing of wildlife and destruction of the environment.
The barbaric practice of cutting off sharks' fins must be stopped. As the article clearly shows, attempting to regulate fishing practices without restricting or prohibiting consumption is completely ineffective. I have personally witnessed people catching baby sharks at the Berkeley Pier, cutting off their fins, and throwing them back into the water to die. I was both sickened and outraged by what I saw. Claims of racism are nothing more than illegitimately playing the race card. It matters not one bit whether the people engaged in this practice are of Asian, European, African, or other descent, and I didn't even notice what color the people were who were doing this, nor do I care. What does matter is what they are doing, and it's hideously cruel and destructive.
People should not be hunting predators.These animals are at the tops of their food chains and are needed in order to keep their ecosystems healthy. They are also not a quality source of nutrition, as your article points out. The only reason sharks are targeted is for their fins, and this must be stopped.
It's fine to kill animals to eat them, that's the way life on our planet works. But killing an animal that you should not be hunting in the first place and torturing it just so you can make money from its fins is completely inexcusable. I strongly support the proposed legislation and hope it becomes law very soon.
Jeff Hoffman, San Francisco
Not Part of My Heritage
As a Chinese Canadian who grew up in Malaysia, let me say that we never considered shark fin soup as part of our culture or heritage. Even when I was a child the soup was only seen at banquets held by those eager to show off their wealth and it remains the same symbol of wealth today — nothing cultural about that.I had no problems with Fong and Huffman's proposal when it came out but I had a huge problem with Senator Yee trying to turn this into a racial issue when it isn't. Along with thousands of Chinese from Hong Kong to Singapore, I have written in to support Assemblymen Fong and Huffman as we need to turn this back into an issue of conservation, not racism.