Shark Fin Soup still on the menu in British Columbia?

2011 is proving to be a pivotal year for global awareness for the ugly truth behind shark fin soup and legislation in North America banning the sale, consumption and possession of shark fins to help save the world’s dwindling shark population. In the same week, that Toronto gave the thumbs up to banning the sale, consumption and possession of shark fins backed by hefty fines, Shark Truth, a Vancouver based organization dedicated to saving sharks in partnership with Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise  held the first “Sans Fin Soup Contest” to raise awareness and to encourage the banning of shark fin soup.  Also this month, in a huge win for environmentalists and the movement to stop shark finning, California joined Hawaii (the first state to outlaw shark fins in 2010) Washington, Oregon and Guam in a move that will effectively close off the United States Pacific ports to the shark fin trade. The City of Toronto will be joining Ontario cities Brantford, Oakville and Mississauga which have already banned shark fins in their jurisdictions. Will Vancouver be the next Canadian city to ban shark fins and is federal legislation next?

If the mention of sharks still brings Spielberg’s Jaws to mind, the award-winning 2007 Canadian documentary film, Sharkwater” written, directed and narrated by Rob Stewart, will forever change the way you look and feel about sharks.  This documentary captures the mystique and elegance of one of the world’s oldest species, as well as the utter devastation of long line fishing to the ocean’s ecosystem and the barbaric practice of shark finning where sharks while still alive are hauled onto boats, their fins hacked off and in a trail of blood, thrown back into the ocean where unable to swim, they slowly drown or are eaten alive by other fish. An estimated seventy million sharks are killed annually according to Wild Aid through shark finning and sharks are facing extinction because of the demand for a bowl of soup.

In China, the serving of shark fin soup, revered for its rarity and elaborate preparation, became an established tradition with the Ming dynasty in the fourteenth century. A dish exclusively for emperors and the upper echelons of Chinese society, shark fin soup became synonymous with wealth and power.  In the nineties, shark fin soup moved down the social ladder and became the status symbol of the “new” middle class in Asia-ordered to show one’s wealth and served at large weddings and banquets to “share one’s fortune” with family and friends.  This created an unprecedented demand for shark fins which directly resulted in the practice of shark finning. Killing a shark only for its fins, insults the revered and ancient Chinese philosophy towards food of “waste not, want not”  where according to custom almost every part of an animal, fish or plant should be eaten.  Most consumers of shark fin soup are unaware of the horrific practice of shark finning. This is changing.  In September, the international conservation organization WildAid, (, Chinese basketball star, Yao Ming, leading Chinese entrepreneur Zhang Ye and British entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson launched a global campaign to create awareness of the devastating effects of shark finning and the ugly truth behind shark fin soup. These powerful media broadcasts can be viewed at

Local Vancourite, Claudia Li who founded Shark Truth in 2009 after watching the Canadian documentary Sharkwater is helping to change the tradition of serving shark fin soup at Chinese weddings and working to achieve a national ban  on shark fins sold in Canada.  Shark fin is not valued for taste, in fact it is tasteless, absorbing the flavor of the broth in which it is made. Shark fin is valued for the texture it provides to the soup which is easily substituted as Shark Truth along with Ocean Wise’s proved with its “Sans Fin Soup” event held at the Renaissance Vancouver Harbourside Hotel which attracted over 300 guests. Congratulations to the winners-“Sans Fin Soup Star”- Chef Edmund Yee of P2B Bistro & Bar the People’s Choice Winner- Chef Tom Lee, Edible Canada at the Market and Runner up-William Tse from the Sandbar Restaurant.  Other chefs that participated were Todd Bright, Ben Lai, Mongomery Lau and John Moks.

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