Shark fin soup still an issue in south Vancouver

Flamingo House Chinese Restaurant
The Flamingo House Chinese Restaurant in south Vancouver stopped serving shark fin soup years ago, says owner Joseph Lee (right). Photo: Brandon Kostinuk

Vancouver city councillor Kerry Jang is pursuing a joint ban on the sale of shark fin products in Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby because of the decimation the trade has wrought on shark species and the environment.

But establishments that serve the culturally popular shark fin soup are opposed to the proposed regional ban because of the potential lost revenue.

Restaurants have mixed feelings

“Restaurants can’t do without it,” said Michael Kwok, manager at Red Star Seafood Restaurant in Marpole.

“We’re just serving our customers’ demands,” he said.

But this isn’t the case for every Chinese restaurant in the city.

“Shark fin has not been on my menu for many years,” said Joseph Lee, owner of the Flamingo House Chinese Restaurant in south Vancouver.

“I have a [culturally] diverse customer base so if I’m not serving shark fin I won’t die,” he said.

Shark fin crucial to culture

Shark fin is a status symbol in Chinese culture, said Lee, because the product garners such a high price tag.

So serving shark fin is a show of wealth and generosity, he added, which makes it a customary item at weddings.

“But I don’t do banquets,” said Lee.

The Red Star Seafood Restaurant does, and all of their dinner packages contain shark fin soup, among other lavish food, because, according to Kwok, customers demand it.

“Banquet functions are important to our business,” said Kwok.

For a small bowl of shark fin soup, the Red Star Seafood Restaurant charges $36.80. Banquet packages range from $598 to $1,998.

Students support stopping shark fin soup

Kevin Shu, a first-year science student at Langara, said he likes shark fin soup because of the texture and aroma.

“But it’s expensive and I’m conscious of the environment so I’m supportive of the ban,” added Shu.

Edward Yao, a first-year human kinetics student, said he too was supportive of the ban.

“It’s basically killing off a species,” said Yao. “There’s not much nutrition in it . . . [and] it’s destroying the ecosystem.”

Reported by Brandon Kostinuk

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