Shark Fin Bans Lack Bite

Misguided state laws threaten to ban the sale or possession of shark fins. Fishermen, chefs, and diners will suffer the consequences.

Earlier this month, a Maryland bill that would have banned the possession or sale of shark fins gathered steam before eventually dying in the state’s House of Delegates. The bill failed despite support from pop singer Ke$ha, who was apparently happy to penalize the mostly Chinese-American chefs who serve shark fin soup and other delicacies made with shark fins. (This is the same Ke$sha who recently urinated in a California street, an act she photographed and posted online with a challenge to the “PoPo” to track her down.)

Ke$ha’s approbation aside, the proposed Maryland ban—like others already in place in states like California and Hawaii—was a bad idea. It’s not that sharks don’t deserve some measure of protection, it’s that the state laws go much too far.

The Maryland ban seemed designed to appeal to the hearts—rather than the minds and certainly not the stomachs—of the state’s residents. After all, Maryland hasn’t had a single shark fin pass through the Port of Baltimore in years. (The Washington Post also notes that only two restaurants in the state—including Wong Gee in Silver Spring, where I sampled shark-fin soup and shark dumplings for the first time last week—are known to serve shark.)

If the Maryland bill seems a solution in search of a problem, then the more glaring concern with the Maryland bill and other state bans is that sharks in U.S. waters are already protected against the practice of “finning.” The practice, as its name suggests, occurs after a shark is caught in the ocean, where fishermen cut off its edible fins and toss the rest of the dying shark back in the water.

The protection comes in the form of a federal ban outlawing the practice of finning in U.S. waters. President Barack Obama signed the bill last year (and recently dined at a San Francisco restaurant known for its shark fin soup).

But unlike the Maryland bill and other state bans, the federal ban doesn’t ban the possession or sale of shark fins. It simply requires a fisherman who catches a shark to bring the whole carcass to shore.

Is the federal rule fair? I think so. A fisherman has no more right to litter the ocean with shark carcasses than a deer hunter has to foul the woods with her unclaimed kills.

The better rule for animals from shark to deer is that if you hunt and kill an animal in the wild, you’re responsible for hauling out the whole animal (minus, perhaps, the guts).

And so the federal law is the rare food-related ban I can actually get behind. I'm not behind it simply because it reduces the indiscriminate slaughter of animals in a commons—though more than 70 million sharks are finned worldwide each year by some estimates. I support the federal law for that reason and because it reduces ocean waste while—and here’s the key—still permitting the use of shark fin as food.

Though a payload of valuable fins is no doubt worth more at market than a comparable payload of shark carcasses, the latter still has a host of non-food uses.

When it comes to the debate over shark fishing, all of these economic and environmental concerns are noteworthy. But more important to me is the fact state bans likely conflict with the federal ban and may as a result be unconstitutional.

For example, California bans the possession of any shark fin. What this means in practice is that sharks caught in California waters and intended to be brought back to shore must first be de-finned—lest a fisherman be found in possession of a fin and fined. Here it's the fins, rather than the shark, that are presumably thrown back into the ocean.

But since federal law requires a fisherman to bring the whole intact shark back to shore, this reverse finning required under California law is in direct conflict with federal law. It’s no surprise that a group of shark-fin sellers in California, working together as the Asian American Rights Committee of California, recently sued the state in hopes of overturning the ban.

Though the California lawsuit may deter other state efforts to ban the possession and sale of shark fins, the Post notes the Maryland bill may reappear next year. That would be unfortunate for Wong Gee and the few remaining sellers in the state, as well as for consumers—from Chinese-Americans to people like me who simply enjoy trying new and different foods.

Instead of sending the seafood PoPo after chefs, fishermen, and eaters, why not go after some real problems? Let me suggest that not only has public urination been an issue in Maryland in recent years, but it looks like Ke$sha may be gearing up for a tour.

Baylen J. Linnekin, a lawyer, is executive director of Keep Food Legal, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit that advocates in favor of food freedom—the right to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, cook, eat, and drink the foods of our own choosing.

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  • ||

    WE'RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BOAT

  • ||

    Back home we got a taxidermy man. He gonna have a heart attack when he see what I brung him.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Linnekin's not talkin about pleasure boatin or day sailin. He's talkin about workin for a livin. He's talkin about sharkin!

  • ||

    Show me the way to go home

  • Tman||

    Here lies the body of Mary Lee; died at the age of a hundred and three. For fifteen years she kept her virginity; not a bad record for this vicinity.

  • plu1959||

    Saw one eat a rocking chair once.

  • ||

    And, you know, the thing about a shark... he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be living... until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then... ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin'.

  • Richard_KY||

    OT but worth reading from Le Monde:

    Locking down an American workforce, Prison labor as the past and future of American "Free market" capitalism:

    http://mondediplo.com/openpage.....-workforce

  • ||

    Cool story, bro.

  • Jordan||

    Nothing says "free market" like a government locking people up. *Rolls eyes*

  • Sevo||

    Check the second-last paragraph of that screed (copy-pasting makes reason squirrels nuts).
    It's hard to squeeze more lies into fewer words.
    Oh, and Richard? You're an ignoramus.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The practice, as its name suggests, occurs after a shark is caught in the ocean, where fishermen cut off its edible fins and toss the rest of the dying shark back in the water.

    The sharks would do the same to us the first chance they got.

  • Name Nomad||

    Thank you, good sir! Now I have an excuse for stealing all of my neighbors' children's candy.

  • mr lizard||

    Candy stolen from a child tastes way better just because.

  • ||

    Advocacy of food freedom is tantamount to lynching black people, because progressives like food and drink prohibitions, and all blacks are represented by progressivism, and that means freedom-loving people are all racist.

    My logic is undeniable.

    Also, from what my ears report back to my brain, Kesha blows as hard as Justin "I Just Had My First Period" Bieber. Why the fuck would anybody give a shit about her positions, eh?

  • ||

    Why the fuck would anybody give a shit about her positions, eh?

    Apparently, she is a high priestess of the eco-theological movement, extreme lover of anything animal (except people), and a certified genius who makes really crappy, mass produced muzak. Certainly screams authoritah to me. Feh!

  • ||

    But not quite as authoritative as Michael Moore, who's eaten all sorts of different people in his day.

  • R||

    I think that's the only sentence where "eaten all sorts of different people" can not be taken as a double entendre.

  • Anacreon||

    a certified genius who makes really crappy, mass produced muzak.

    I do like her "Tik Tok" song, but only because The Simpsons did a cool version of their titles sequence in sync to it.

  • Anacreon||

    a certified genius who makes really crappy, mass produced muzak.

    I do like her "Tik Tok" song, but only because The Simpsons did a cool version of their titles sequence in sync to it.

  • Anacreon||

    I finally get to experience what it is like to have the fucking squirrels give me a deuce. Hurrah!

  • Ice Nine||

    Well, there is that squatting thing.

  • Rhywun||

    Which is the first and hopefully last time I ever have to hear of this person.

  • yonemoto||

    she was a fan of the "fear the boom and the bust" hayek/keynes rap videos.

  • ||

    The bill failed despite support from pop singer Ke$ha, who was apparently happy to penalize the mostly Chinese-American chefs who serve shark fin soup and other delicacies made with shark fins.

    Well! The incontinent Ke$ha has endorsed this legislation, what more do you need?

  • ||

    Well, I'm definitely withholding MY support for the bill until Ashton Kutcher and his esteemed activist ex, the great Demi Moore, pitch in with their take.

  • Brutus||

    Loser. My support follows the incomparable Juice Newton.

  • plu1959||

    I can't make up my mind until I hear what Janeane Garofalo has to say about this.

  • Ice Nine||

    Be assured that Janeane thinks that sharks are racists.

  • sloopyinca||

    Be assured that Janeane thinks that sharks are racists.

    Only the Great White's though.

  • sloopyinca||

    Ke$ha goes in water.
    Shark is in water.
    Our shark.

    ...if only.

  • ||

    "Shark-fin soup make you too horny"

    Any fans of the wuxia film Iron Monkey here?

  • ||

    Which one?

    The film or the band?

    Movie is ok; the band has a few good songs.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    What kind of food blogger doesn't post recipes?

    I could post here my own special recipe for my awesome killer brownies, but my attorneys say just because the grand jury didn't indict me last time doesn't mean I should push my luck.

  • Tman||

    I have a good recipe for shark steaks!

    4 Shark Steaks, 1/4 inch thickness.
    1 Onion
    1 Shallot
    1 tbsp Balsamic vinaigrette
    1 tbsp soy sauce
    1 garlic clove
    1 tsp Smoked Paprika
    1 tsp tsp fennel pollen
    1 tbsp butter
    salt and pepper to taste
    Saute onion and shallots in butter in small saucepan until clear. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.

    Add onions and shallots to a freezer bag along with the rest of the spices and shake well. Add shark steaks and marinate overnight.

    Cook steaks on grill on medium heat.

    Remove from grill and plate. Take shark steaks and throw in the garbage. Go get sushi takeout.

    Shark steaks are terrible.

  • ||

    Nice fucking troll, Tman. That sounded really appetizing until the end. Ya jerk. ;-]

  • ||

    I know it's a joke, but do you know how expensive fennel pollen is?

    Shark steaks are fine, if cooked like swordfish or marlin. They're not going to blow your mind, but as long as you don't overcook them, they're fine.

  • Jerry||

    Will it cook out the urea?

  • ||

    To get the urea out you need to put the shark steaks in milk for a couple of hours then rinse.

    The sooner after being caught the shark is cut up and soaked, the better.

  • Anacreon||

    Fennel grows wild like a weed around here. Where is it expensive?

  • Mr Whipple||

    It depends on size and species of the shark. Small sand sharks are very good.

  • Ed Zeppelin||

    I had a mako steak once. Reminded me of a pork chop.

  • Sevo||

    Chicken. Everything tastes like chicken.
    Anyhow, shark steak is tasty, but 1/4" thick means you get burnt toast. Try at least 3/4" thick, and oil the grille first.
    A minute or two on a side (how hot is the fire?), serve with some chilled, crisp salad.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    I also recommend it in a cerviche. A good dense meat takes the vinegar and peppers well.

  • Syd Henderson||

    I usually add a couple of drops of lemon to them. But yeah, definitely go with the thick cut. They tend to be high in mercury, so I go with the recommendation to eat it no more than a couple of times a month.

  • PantsFan||

  • Brutus||

    Priceless.

  • Terr||

    Hilarious.

  • Gladstone||

    OT: But here is a video review of the Atlas Shrugged movie by an admitted Socialist.

    http://www.agonybooth.com/vide....._Rand.aspx

  • Deacon Blue||

    I used to hang out with sharks a lot when I was smoking ambergris. Sharks can pretty much always get some ambergris.

    Oh, wait...

  • ||

    here's a story i mentioned. this is the conclusion

    GREAT job done by SWAT cops, several of whom had to be treated for dehydration, and one of whom suffered a broken ankle

    GREAT job by investigators, some of whom recovered data from fire damaged and water soaked computers (i took a forensic computer class from this guy a few years ago), who then used... MATH to figure out the location of the bunker based on photographs taken there and left on the drive (using landmarks in the distance).

    a SWAT success you will never read about in reason.
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.c.....er29m.html

    http://www.komonews.com/news/l.....61815.html

  • The Last American Hero||

    You won't read about it in Reason because most people don't object to the use of SWAT for pursuing homicidal maniacs. It's the use of SWAT for inappropriate purposes that is at issue.

    Dehydration and a broken ankle for a 1 mile hike in the woods near one of the most popular trails in the Seattle area = need to eat fewer donuts.

    Nice threadjack, though.

  • Ed Zeppelin||

    Sometimes that Ke$ha she looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. And, you know, the thing about Ke$ha... she's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When she comes at ya, doesn't seem to be living... until she puts on one of her CDs, and those black eyes roll over white and then... ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin'.

  • Just Dropping By||

    That's a masterpiece, right there.

  • Sevo||

    So, "unintended consequences"...
    We outlaw shark-fin. Anyone else going long on sharkfin? It's gonna get spendy real soon.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Shark-fin is already like a gazillion bucks.

  • David_TheMan||

    How can a person litter the ocean with a shark carcass? Are killer whales guilty of littering when they kill a shark just to eat its liver?

    You sort of kill any argument when you start going down spurious logical avenues like the one mentioned above.

  • ||

    No kidding. How long do you think that "garbage" lasted after it hit the water, leaking natural chum like a British roadster leaks oil?

  • Atanarjuat||

    OT: Independent and Principled? Behind the Cato Myth, which is mostly a hysterical anti-Koch screed using every possible lefty trigger word, but also has a paragraph on David "Ratfucker" Weigel.

  • db||

    It does seem a tad inhumane to slice off an animal's appendage and leave it to die...

  • ||

    Why? The carcass will be food for other marine organisms. Recycling at its most natural and pure. Which I don't see the problem with the deer hunter carcass either. Is a bear or wolf that tears up a deer for meat and viscerae and leave the rest equally as "inhumane"? Keeping in mind that sharks generally have no "natural" predators, are humans part of the environment or just anomalous bystanders? Aren't humans simply higher order, high functioning animals?

  • Atanarjuat||

    Of course every living thing in nature is recycled in some way or another, the point of the previous comment that it is cruel to slice off a creature's ambulatory limbs and leave them to die a slow death. It would be better, at the very least, to administer some sort of death-hastening blow after collecting the fins but before returning the animal to the sea. Yes, prey animals may await a grimmer fate in nature, but the fact that we are human and have the ability to empathize with a lower creature's fate, as well as the little effort required to ease the creature's suffering, suggests it is the right thing to do.

  • ||

    but the fact that we are human and have the ability to empathize with a lower creature's fate, as well as the little effort required to ease the creature's suffering,

    To the point of anthropomorphizing so-called lesser species?

    It would be better, at the very least, to administer some sort of death-hastening blow after collecting the fins but before returning the animal to the sea.

    Like a well placed bludgeon? Or should a license be required of fishermen so they can administer, like our esteemed Pestilence suggested for grandma, "a pain pill". Incidentally, the wise and admittedly bona fide genius Ke$ha objects to the braining of baby seals for precisely the same reason as her objection to finning and tossing.

  • db||

    This is mostly my point. I feel there's a difference between killing an animal cleanly for its meat, and killing an animal inhumanely for its meat. I'm not a deer hunter, but most of the hunters I know take great effort to make their kills clean. First, because they empathize with their prey, and they tell me that the sound of a gut-shot deer howling is not pleasant at all. Second, because in general it just seems to be the right thing to do.

    There are bloodthirsty hunters out there looking for thrill kills (I also have known some of them) but even they don't tend to want to torture their kills. My point is that it seems unnecessarily cruel to kill an animal in that way. At least give it the courtesy of a shotgun slug in the head before heaving the carcass overboard.

  • Ice Nine||

    It would be better, at the very least, to administer some sort of death-hastening blow after collecting the fins but before returning the animal to the sea.

    After?! Your sensitivity to the beast's suffering is touching.

  • Mr Whipple||

    Fish can't feel pain.

  • dffadd||

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    Juicy Couture Bags which tell us many young taste of youth. Juicy couture Scottie symbols western culture.Juicy Couture Handbags s a well-known brand in the fashion industry. It offers great variety of products and some of its most common items include Juicy Couture bags, shoes, watches, caps and wallets. If you order more,You will get more discount with free shipping in our Juicy Couture UK Online. Hope to enjoy yourself here!

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Kesha totally looks like a train wreck.

    http://totallylookslike.icanha.....om=recMap2

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