January 10, 2009

Barona offered shark fin soup

Scuba diver helps get shark fin soup off menuSome local scuba divers and an executive chef combined this week to eliminate a controversial seafood item from a menu for a Chinese New Year celebration.

Scuba-diving enthusiast Carl Robbins noticed the menu in an advertising flyer from Barona Valley Ranch Resort & Casino.

Among the offerings was shark fin soup, the controversial Asian delicacy that relies on the fins of sharks, some of which are finned and released in a mutilated state back into the sea. The practice is being blamed for a decrease in shark populations around the world.

The Year of the Ox, which commences Jan. 26, was going to be started with some fin of the shark, which traces its beginnings to the Ming Dynasty in the mid-1300s.

Outraged, Robbins sent e-mails to Barona and alerted fellow scuba divers and watermen. Robbins, citing Web sites and documentaries, detailed why it's inhumane to offer such a menu item. It's been estimated that every year tens of millions of sharks die a slow death because of finning. Robbins' e-mail to Dean Thomas, executive chef at Barona, explained his stance.

“Today we live in a world that often places the interests of people far above those of the majority of other creatures that share planet Earth with us,” Robbins wrote.

“The negative impact seen in our world's oceans through the ruthless slaughter of sharks for nothing more than their fins has been well-documented. It is a practice that has been long identified with organized crime not to mention the inhumanity towards the sharks as well as the enormous impact to our oceans and therefore to our world.”

Robbins' plea to chef Thomas extended to the American Indian tribe at Barona.

“The Native Americans associated with the Barona culture often emphasize their natural heritage and strong association with the natural world,” Robbins wrote. “As their ancestors would never tolerate such blatant waste and destruction neither should the living sons and daughters of the Barona Band of Mission Indians. You can help make a difference in maintaining healthy oceans and therefore a healthy world through the simple act of not purchasing and then providing shark fins at this celebration.”

Robbins' e-mail and others drew an immediate response from Thomas, who removed shark fin soup from the Barona Chinese New Year celebration menu.

“Thank you sincerely for expressing your beliefs with the concerns on shark fins,” Thomas said via e-mail. “I can only state embarrassment in this year's decision to menu this 'culture' item with our Asian New Year Celebration. I totally agree with the belief and can assure you (I) will support the education of our planet's sustainability in all the ways possible as a chef. Please forgive my mistake and oversight on this occasion. We have removed shark fin soup from our menu.”
Comment:  Nice to see one man's actions had an effect. Not nice to see the chef made the mistake in the first place.

And of course any culture that eats an endangered species is immoral in my book. This practice really needs to stop...now.

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