Shark Fin May be Banned From New York Menus

Shark fin soup, a popular delicacy in China, won’t be available to adventurous eaters in New York if a new bill becomes law. As the movement to protect sharks from hunters gathers steam worldwide, three State Assembly members proposed a bill that would punish anyone who sells or distributes shark products. This translated article was published in the World Journal:

In an effort to protect sharks from being hunted and to preserve natural resources, State Assembly members Grace Meng, Alan Maisel and Linda Rosenthal proposed Bill # A7707S6431 last Tuesday. The bill seeks to punish individuals who sell, exchange, trade, and distribute shark products to individuals, restaurants and corporations. Depending on the circumstances, the penalty may be fines or even imprisonment.  California, Washington, Hawaii, Oregon and Toronto have already passed similar legislation.

Shark fin is often used in Chinese cuisine, and shark fin soup is considered an essential dish at high-end banquets. The Humane Society of the United States‘ New York State Director Patrick Kwan said that Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood imports thousands of pounds of shark fins on a monthly basis.  Large restaurants in the area typically serve shark fin soup during Chinese New Year, weddings, and celebratory occasions.

Maisel, a former high school teacher, described the bloody process of finning sharks. Fishermen often cut off the fins and throw the live sharks back to the sea, where they are vulnerable to attacks from other creatures, he said. Maisel emphasized that the ban addresses a global environmental issue, rather than specifically targeting restaurants that serve the dish

“This is an extraordinarily cruel and selfish process,” he said.

The demand for shark fins has increased in Asia for the past five decades while shark populations have plummeted rapidly, according to the Humane Society. Approximately a third of the shark species living in the ocean are currently facing the threat of extinction because their average growth rate is slow. Many of these sharks go through long pregnancies, leading to lower levels of breeding.

Aside from the environmental toll that the shark fin trade is taking, the organization also said that eating shark fin brings health risks. Shark fins contain high levels of mercury, a neurotoxin that affects the human nervous system and can cause serious injury to a fetus.

One fan of shark fin soup, Meng, said that although she understands the culinary tradition behind the dish, people should stop eating shark fin in order to protect the ocean’s ecological balance.

“This is not only the responsibility of a good New York City citizen, but it is also a global citizen’s responsibility,” she said.

Edited by Justin Chan

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