I am not doing something new, complaining about the unjust and inhumane way in which sharks are slaughtered for just their fins in an overrated traditional Chinese soup (fins used for other dishes but it’s mainly soup.). I am also not going to hide the fact my anger comes from watching the Gordon Ramsay doco on the subject which was shamefully screened at 12.30am when nobody is going to see it.
I believe in a country like New Zealand there is no way shark fin soup or other shark products should be available and what’s more other than money grabbing (up to $80 for 1 bowl) and tradition there is no reason for it either. I am going to try my best to make a change and see some restaurants take it off their menus. With the help of some very good New Zealand organisations you can make a difference to.
I am under no illusion the odds are against me. Who I am, I am just chef, just a normal person I am certainly no Gordon Ramsay and will have to work very hard to get this out there.
The ultimate and almost impossible goal for one individual chef is to have a law change to completely ban the import and sales of shark fin in the whole country.
1/ I have always since I can remember adored sharks, by far and away my favourite animal and certainly the most misunderstood. (Thanks Spielberg, although Jaws is a great movie) I had a dream realised a few years ago when I swam with the sharks in Kelly Tarlton’s in the days before they introduced the cage. It was amazing just to free swim amongst these gentile animals that just seem to glide around minding their own business.
2/ it doesn’t taste spectacular, I am not sure on the quality but when I was very young and ignorant I had eaten it a couple of times. Just nothing special and quite tasteless so what is the point?
3/ FINNING: - The main motivation is quite legal, has rules but is largely unmonitored in most countries that fish for sharks. Sharks are caught on long lines with turtles, dolphins and anything else that gets snagged, then the fins are cut off and the body is chucked back in the sea. Oh did I mention when it’s thrown back in the sea the shark is still alive so basically sinks and dies a slow horrible death.
If you’re still reading then there is hope. NZ has grown a lot lately and this is shown in the forward thinking of the gay rights bill passed in April (2013). (Irrelevant whether you agree or not it is still progressive) so why not become the first country to completely ban the use of the shark. We will never be big enough to stop the finning but we can help decrease the demand.
Some disgusting facts for you….
I encourage you to heighten your interest and read a close to home report call Shark finning – NZ’s shame on the Forest and bird website. You can find that here:
There is a disturbing 2 minute video on You tube which is evidence of shark finning in the Marlborough Sounds, it’s not to gory so have a watch and you will see how they are cruelly treated. If you think you can’t bear to watch then you are clearly against the finning otherwise you wouldn’t care about seeing it. Either way try and view it. You can find that here:
Finally on this section head again to the forest and bird website and sign the petition to pledge your support on banning shark finning in NZ. You can find that one here:
However it is worth pointing out that Forest and Bird do unfortunately support the consumption of Shark Fin Soup so long as it is sustainably caught. The problem is as I have said before is there is no way of monitoring if it is sustainably caught or not. Anyway i think it is worth giving your tick and then going to try and make a bigger difference as shown throughout this article.
What else could I do?
Well here is a taste of restaurants that are selling shark fin dishes on their menu, it is all the restaurants I could find that had menus available, I will grow the list and please tell me if you find more. I have also only searched Auckland so if anyone from any other part of the country could inform me I will add them to the list.
On that point, it isn’t all one sided is it? Surely there is another side. I used the restaurants listed to try and get the other side and see if there was any decent support FOR using the shark products. All these restaurants have been asked the same questions and whether they would like to make any other comments to support the use of shark fins. The simple questions asked where as follows.
Why do you sell shark fin soup?
How much do you sell?
Where is it coming from?
Do you personally have any issues with selling shark fin soup or would like to make any comments to defend the sale of shark fin soup?
The restaurants so far contacted are;
Hees Garden restaurant, Mt Eden
Crystal Harbour restaurant, (up to $80 per bowl of soup!)
Grand Park Chinese Seafood Restaurant, Epsom
Pearl Garden Restaurant, Newmarket
Empress Garden Chinese Restaurant, Herne bay
(I HAVE ONLY MENTIONED THE ABOVE RESTAURANTS AS I HAVE FULL PROOF THEY HAVE IT ON THEIR PERMENANT MENU, THERE ARE OTHERS LISTED ON OTHER WEBSITES BUT I HAVE NO ACCESS TO MENUS. IF YOU PROPOSE A RESTAURANT THEN PLEASE SEND EVIDENCE OF THE MENU ALSO AS I DON’T WANT TO MENTION A RESTAURANT UNFAIRLY.)
Unsurprisingly I have been met with a brick wall and no answers until Hees Garden where very honest and forward and I have expressed my gratitude in their honest response, this is what they had to say and it is completely unedited so to give the true nature of their response.
Shark fin soup has been on Chinese menu for hundreds of years. Chinese believed that shark fin is very nutritious and make you live long. People pay high prices for it. Most shark fin in New Zealand is supplied locally. In recent years, with environmental education, sale of shark-fin is diminishing. People only Oder it for special occasions. We hardly sell any in our day to day trading.
Don't make it too big an issue. Shark-fin price has become so expensive. I don't think there are many who can afford it. To my knowledge, most shark-fin sold in Chinese restaurants nowadays is
artificial (made from other sea products) and customers are aware of that. I hope my answers are helpful to you.
I also asked for help and comments from Kelly Tarlton’s but unfortunately couldn’t get an answer. However what I did manage was a few pointers and viewpoints from Shark fin Free Auckland. www.sffa.org.nz
This is what Eve Stewart had to say and it is quite an important part of the article so if you are scanning this article make this the one part you read in detail because you will find the easiest way to help and participate in banning these practises in our waters.
“I guess what we'd most like people to know is that a possible law change is coming up in the next couple of months, but it looks like it's going to be a "submission count", not a signature count. We'd love as many people to get on board with this and give it 10 minutes of their time to go the NZSA site, http://www.nzsharkalliance.org.nz/ and sign up to their mailing list. This will enable to people to know as soon as the process starts and they're offering a submission template and who it needs to go to.
I think it's good for people to realise this isn't the "traditional" dish that it's perceived to be. It was once only consumed by royalty but became popular in the 18th and 19th century as fishing practices became more efficient. Some of the more active groups against shark fin soup are in China and a lot of young brides are opting to not have soup at their wedding (this is a biggie as this is the issue with restaurants here - no restaurants here want to give up the option of soup for the wedding banquets), so this is not black and white with one culture against another. SFFA is also aligned to The Chinese Education and Conservation Trust (CCET), a point we like to bring up before the "racist" card gets waved at us - you'd be surprised by whom.
Finning is I think an easy cash crop for the fisheries - the government can't manage quotas as there is no way to tell how many sharks were caught from a pile of fins, and there is no proof the shark was dead when it was finned and best of all shark fins are easy to transport - no guts involved, very little space taken up and a good return on such a small product.
I think there are three issues here in NZ over the soup - a lot of people don't know it's legal here to fin, as Kiwis we're overcautious about been seen as being racist and our fishing industry is one powerful group. Maybe add a fourth with our government wanting to forge stronger business with China.”
I think a lot of my issues are raised here and a big part of it and what I have learnt the most is how big shark finning is in our OWN waters. How can we give an impression of a wonderful responsible country when these things are happening?
So finally to sum up, how can you help and what can you do about it?
I am realistic, so there are small steps you can take to help.
Don’t think your opinion won’t matter, if you think you haven’t got time drop me a line and I will write the letter for you to sign and forward to your politicians. If enough of us do something then WE WILL make a difference and perhaps NZ can once again lead the way in another important world decision.
Links to help
New Zealand Shark Alliance Facebook page:
Shark Fin Free Auckland
Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand