Monday, December 22, 2014

A shark in your soup and a lion on your plate?

You may be encountering -- and eating -- an endangered species.

A shark in your soup and a lion on your plate?

Shark fin soup. (Pew Environment photo)
Shark fin soup. (Pew Environment photo)

Recently, the Pew Environment Group did a DNA study of shark fin soup at restaurants in 14 states and found, to officials' dismay, that they contained shark species considered endangered, vulnerable or "near-threatened."

The idea is that people might unwittingly eat one of these species, thinking they were actually eating a shark that is in plentiful supply.

“The DNA testing again confirms that a wide variety of sharks are being killed for the fin trade, including seriously threatened species,” Demian Chapman, who co-led the DNA testing at the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University in New York, said in a press release. “U.S. consumers of shark fin soup cannot be certain of what’s in their soup. They could be eating a species that is in serious trouble.”

But, uh..... Apparently, shark fin soup costs in the realm of $100 a bowl, so the best thing for both the sharks and your wallet might be to stay away from the stuff.  Then again, I've never tasted it, so maybe I'm missing something here.

Today, Discovery News reporter Emily Sohn advanced the issue with a story looking at five other "troubled entrees" one might encounter on a menu. One of them is lion -- legal, apparently, if ill-advised.  So, no, please don't eat the lions. That ought to be easy.

Others: bluefin tuna, caviar from sturgeon, chilean sea bass and turtles.

"It doesn't mean it's safe for a species just because it's on a menu,"  biologist Susan Lieberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group in Washington, D.C., told Sohn.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at sbauers@phillynews.com.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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