Controversial Shark Fin Soup Served at King Palace Chinese Bar B-Q

Categories: The Critic
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"The fins are typically hacked off a live shark, leaving it to die slowly as it sinks to the bottom of the sea." Seventy-three million sharks a year are being killed this way. "As many as 90 percent of sharks in the world's open oceans have disappeared."

That info comes from an article by Patricia Leigh Brown in Saturday's edition of the New York Times that sheds light on the controversy surrounding a bill in the California Legislature that would ban the sale and possession of shark fins, including the serving of shark fin soup.

Most of the two dozen menus from Miami's Chinese restaurants that I perused showed no shark fin items. Hakkasan, Miss Yip, Tony Chan's Water Club, China Palace, South Seas... fin free. Philippe Restaurant used to sell it but stopped doing so in May 2009. Mr. Chow serves "imitation" shark fin (crab). Tropical Chinese had likewise featured fin -- and its online menu still lists the delicacy (shark fin crabmeat soup $30 for two; braised imperial shark fin $40 per person). But May Hensley, Tropical's manager, says, "We took it off the menu a long time ago." Asked why, she says, "Because people complained."

King Palace Chinese Bar-B-Q, on the other hand, still serves shark fin soup (with chicken, for $18.95).

Thing is, this soup is not even eaten because of any particularly fetching flavor, but merely as a status symbol denoting wealth and power. And on the other end, those who sell the fins make huge profits; they come in varying grades, the tail fin being most expensive and netting up to $800 for a 1.6-pound bag.

Defenders of shark finning like to use "cultural significance" as their rationale. "It's been part of our heritage for centuries," they say. OK. Let shark fin soup grace the wedding tables of pretentious fat cats in China. But these practices have no significance in American culture. Immigrants should surely be free to retain any parts of their indigenous lifestyle when they come here. But it doesn't strike me as unreasonable to make an exception to that rule when it involves the senseless taking of life that offends the values of the host country. And I find the act of horrifically killing 73 million sharks a year so people can ostentatiously flaunt their wealth extremely offensive.

Restaurants in Hawaii have until June 30 to clear out their shark inventories or face fines of $5,000 to $15,000 for a first offense. Similar bills have been introduced in Oregon, Washington State, and now California. I don't know whether shark fin is being sold much in other Florida cities, but Miami seems to have cleaned up its act voluntarily -- or in some cases, with a little prodding from the public. I called King Palace to do a little prodding of my own, but the woman answering the phone could say only that she "thought" it was real shark fin being sold, and that the manager didn't come in often. I left my number but haven't heard back yet.

It wouldn't be a bad idea if readers would give King Palace a call and leave a message for the manager/owner, politely saying you'd be more apt to come in for dinner if shark fin soup was removed from the menu. The number is 305-949-2339. And if you know of any other local places that still sell shark fin, let us know and we'll give them a call too.

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12 comments
Laura
Laura

Thank you, Lee, for your article calling attention to the problem with shark fin soup. I LOVE Asian food but whenever my family goes to a new restaurant the first thing we do is check what is on the menu. If a restaurant serves shark fin soup, we leave. We won’t ever patronize any restaurant that shows such a lack of stewardship for the ocean. Isn’t there some kind of decal or notice that a restaurant can place on its window so that people that feel as we do don’t waste our time even going into restaurants that serve shark fin soup?

BarbaraJ
BarbaraJ

Thanks, Lee, for this great article. For the past several years a few of us in South Florida (all members of the national Shark Research Institute, www.sharks.org) have been calling/visiting local Chinese restaurants and have been told regularly that they still were serving shark fin soup - although it rarely is included on the printed menus (for a variety of reasons). We, of course, would politely explain that we then would not give them our business because of the damaging effect on the environment of this barbaric practice. (Removing the apex predator from the ocean affects everything down the food chain.) It is great to know that you were able to speak with managers directly to get confirmation that most of them (but unfortunately not yet all) have stopped serving this off-menu item. Having someone of your professional standing take an interest in this topic and make a few phone calls has done more for shark conservation than our many hours of volunteer efforts as potential customers, so thank you!!!

Chris P,
Chris P,

I think its a little over the line to give out the phone and say take it off the menu and me may (or may not) come in. You know how crazy these Peta people are.

And when did you become such a conservationist. How about a post calling out Nobu and Matsurai for having blue fin tuna. Or an article with places that serve Chilean sea bass, or conch. Oh wait, their extinction didn't stop you from ordering them last month when you reviewed Rickenbacker Fish Company Restaurant and Market.

Frodnesor
Frodnesor

Agree that restaurants should stop serving sharks' fin, if they are doing so. But it should be no more acceptable in China than it should be here, if it is endangering species populations and is needlessly wasteful and cruel (like whaling, another industry where "cultural significance" is often raised).

But I hardly think the appropriate course of action is a telephonic harassment campaign of a restaurant that may, or may not, even be serving actual shark's fin. Instead, if you feel like picking up the phone, why not call your legislator and ask them to support a law like the California one that would make sure no restaurant is serving it?

Chris H.
Chris H.

I wonder how many cows, chickens, etc are killed each year. If we start mass producing sharks like we do cows, chickens, etc, then would it be ok to eat shark fin soup?!? I've never actually had the soup, but I planned on trying it in my lifetime. I guess that won't happen. If we as humans are beginning to wipe out the shark population, then we should definitely cut back on shark fin soup.

Chris H.

Lee
Lee

Apparently you're a member of the "don't criticize anything unless you're prepared to criticize everything" school of thought. Don't write about foie gras because chickens have it bad too! Don't write about alcohol because prescription pills are bad too! Don't criticize Mubarak because Gadafi is worse!

This is just a petty way of trying to stifle any criticism at all. And please Chris: Don't criticize Peta unless you're also willing to call out the tea party!

Lee
Lee

I agree that calling a legislator is a better big, long-term fix; calling the one place that serves it and asking them not to is for the small, short term fix.

Eric Mills
Eric Mills

Hey, Chris -

FYI, here in the U.S. we annually eat an approximate EIGHT BILLION animals (not including fish), most of whom never see the light of day, nor set foot to earth.

As Wendell Berry has written, "The designers of animal factories appear to have had in mind the example of concentration camps or prisons, the aim of which is to house and feed the greatest numbers in the smallest space at the least expense of money, labor, and attention."

The key to most, perhaps all of the planet's problems is to take a serious look at the gross human overpopulation, then do whatever it takes to fix it.

As the bumperstrip says, "We are not the only species on the planet, we just act like it."

Frodnesor
Frodnesor

You mean the one place that may or may not actually serve it, where the manager doesn't come in often? For $18.95 a bowl, what do you think the odds are that they're even using real shark's fin? Seems more like a way to annoy some employees who have absolutely no control or discretion over what may not even be an issue, rather than any kind of fix, short or long term.

Lee
Lee

Annoyed employees tell their bosses. If you don't think phone calls work, talk to the folks at Philippe, and Tropical, and all the other restaurants who removed the menu items solely because...people complained.

As for the price: maybe it's just crab, maybe a mix of crab and shark's fin -- although if it's only crab, that's a serious scam in itself.

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