Fish Fin vs Shark fin

Went to Vegas over the holidays, but was disappointed to learn that shark fins was also banned in Vegas as of last year.
Back in LA, friends told me that Five Star Seafood Resturant serves ‘Fish Fins soup’ and raw ‘Fish Fins’ are available at Sun Tung Lok Trading in Monterey Park.
Both places checked out. Sun Tung Luk says that their ‘fish fins’ are FDA approved.
But what is fish fin if they are not shark fins? Researching ‘fish fin’ on Goggle led to ‘elephant fish fin for sale’. Apparent elephant fish, Callorhinchus milii, is a common cartilaginous fish, biologically not related to sharks, that are found around New Zealand and other locations. https://fishingmag.co.nz/fish-new-zealand-sea-fish-species/elephant-fish-callorhinchus-milii.
Five Star’s fish fin’s texture and appearance are similar to regular shark fin. The fins are served whole rather than in the separated threads style (ie imitation shark fins). Taste wise, the soup is similar to traditional shark fin soup. No surprise here, as the fins has no taste of their own.

Really? So are you just not interested in issues like this?

2 Likes

Your attached article indicates this creature is related to sharks and rays (class chondrichthyes). This creature not only has some physical features of sharks, it also lays egg cases like certain sharks and rays. And unlike sharks, much of the elephant fish appears to be considered tasty and no bones to sort through as a bonus. Biggest plus is no finning - that’s such a huge waste and fucking cruel as shit. Sharks would probably laugh at humans who think gavage is cruel. “Hey human, let me cut off your limbs and throw you in the ocean with a cardboard snorkel so you slowly suffocate while feeling sea creatures eat your body.”

5 Likes

Like anything else, shark fins can be harvested responsibly and sustainably. It sure hasn’t been done that way, but it could be. There are several shark species that are harvested for their meat, seems like as long as the shark wasn’t just finned and discarded and the shark fishing was managed properly, keeping and processing the fins would just minimize waste.

2 Likes

Lots of qualifiers but I don’t disagree with you. And I wonder how one determines who’s compliant.

Shark fin seems really boring to me, one of those things people eat only because they’re rare and expensive.

2 Likes

I agree with the article that a complete ban would be either a bad idea or a complete waste of time.

I also envision it resulting in weird, hard to follow laws for how to keep and process legally caught sharks.

And the article, as is typical, VASTLY overstates shark population issues (it is written by “Earth Touch” so that’s not surprising) and even refers to them being “endangered” at one point, which is ludicrous. Some shark species are listed by environmental organizations as “endangered” but most aren’t even listed as endangered by these organizations, let alone being actually literally endangered. I don’t know of a single oceanic shark species that is truly endangered, and in the US, the shark population is incredibly healthy.

1 Like

Monterey Bay Aquarium is as far as I know a very reputable source.

https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/fishes/great-white-shark

https://www.seafoodwatch.org/seafood-recommendations/groups/shark/overview

1 Like

Sorry, I stand corrected. I should have said ‘elephant fish are not sharks’ instead of ‘not related to sharks’. Clearly, being a cartilaginous fish, elephant fish are related to sharks and rays albeit separated by millions of years of evolution. Elephant fish is related to sharks and rays in the same way chicken is related to peacocks and turkeys and monkeys are related to apes and humans.
Since Callorhinchus milii, is not a shark, their cartilaginous fins are not banned by the current shark fin prohibitions. And now, fish fin soup is an alternative choice for shark fin soup aficionados in places that ban shark fins.
To keep this discussion food centric instead of debating evolution. I recommend Five Star’s fish fin soup with reservations. Currently, it’s the only game in town. However, the broth was a bit too gelatinous for my taste.

Or if one is so inclined, create ‘impossible shark fins 2.0’ to simulate whole shark fins. Homage to impossible burger 2.0.
The ‘impossible shark fins’ 桂花銀針炒素翅 (Vegetarian “Shark’s Fin”) served at the late Embassy Kitchen is deeply missed.image (picture from Yelp) only approximate the shreaded shark fin in appearance.
Wait, impossible burger 2.0 only try to emulate ground meat, not steaks. It is hard to beat mother nature.

They are not a reputable source, no.

Any environmentalist agency (and MBA certainly counts, and generally depends on others like IUCN for their recommendations) is going to have a major dose of anti-fishing/anti-animal-killing bias affecting its analysis.

I have a hard time looking at the seafood recommendations robert cited and finding any correct entries. Most of them seem to have been written by someone with little to no knowledge of the fisheries.

For example, here was the first one I looked up to make an example. I swear this is just the first one, which I knew would be FUBAR because I’ve looked at many in the past and they’re all FUBAR:

http://www.seafoodwatch.org/seafood-recommendations/groups/seabass/overview?q=white%20seabass&t=white%20seabass&type=white

OK so I looked up “white seabass” (one of our local fish) and I got that entry. It talks about Atlantic black seabass, european seabass, white seabass and black seabass as if they were all related to each other. Aside from all being bony finfish with similar common names, they’re not related at all. They say to avoid “critically endangered giant seabass caught in California.” That is terrible advise.

First of all, our giant seabass are essentially completely protected across more than half their range, and as a diver I can tell you they are very, very, very common. Well, when you look at the IUCN eval that lists them as critically endangered, the first thing you should notice is that they were last assessed in 2004. So for the last 15 years, they’ve been out there breeding and multiplying and boy, there are a LOT more now than in 2004. This is not something I heard about, it’s something I see with my own eyes. They have a very healthy population in CA now. So how does a quote-unquote “critically endangered” fish end up on your plate? The CA fish and game regs allow commercial fishermen to retain one incidentally-caught fish per trip when taken by net (where the fish can’t be released successfully.) So ultimately, we’re talking about a fish whose numbers are highly rebounding, that is almost completely protected across over half its range, that is sold to limit the waste of incidental bycatch, whose numbers are rapidly increasing, and despite being labeled “critically endangered,” have a risk of extinction of exactly 0.00%.

I would rate CA caught giant sea bass as a great option for customers. But obviously whoever wrote that never even considered the state of the fishery, or how the CA giant seabass ends up in a market, or what the real state of the stock is. They just looked at the IUCN (again, an incredibly biased environmentalist agency) and saw they list it as “critically endangered,” so they put it on the avoid list.

This lazy, incomplete and ignorant rating system hurts fishermen and consumer alike. I encourage you all to put the seafoodwatch.org website on your “avoid” list.

1 Like

obviously whoever wrote that never even considered the state of the fishery, or how the CA giant seabass ends up in a market, or what the real state of the stock is

Bullshit. You can drill down for more detailed information supporting the recommendations, e.g.:

Fishing mortality for giant sea bass is unknown because no scientific research has been done to establish population trends (CDFG 2010b). Because giant sea bass fishing mortality is unknown, the species has a high susceptibility to capture in gillnets, and it is listed as “Critically Endangered” under the IUCN, fishing mortality is deemed “high” concern.

Giant sea bass was heavily exploited in the US and Mexico in the early 1900s. In the US, commercial landings peaked in 1932 at 115 MT and rapidly declined the following year. Commercial landings in Mexico had similar decline, though it occurred more gradually. As further described in the introduction, current law prohibits take of giant sea bass with the exception of one fish per trip as incidental catch in the commercial and gill net trammel net fisheries (FGC §8380). CDFW has reported that anecdotal evidence from sightings by scuba divers off of La Jolla, Anacapa Island, and Catalina Island indicates that there may be an increase in abundance (CDFG 2010b). The current population size is estimated at 500 individuals, with evidence that the population is expanding in the region (Chabot et al. 2015). A 2014/2015 survey at Catalina Island also suggests that giant sea bass are recovering, when compared to historical data for the island (House et al. 2016).

1 Like

Please give reputable and verifiable citations to support this claim. TIA. (Oh, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that I don’t care how anyone thinks/feels/believes. I care about nothing but facts.)

1 Like

In Hong Kong dried seafood shops there is an item that goes by two names: 魚唇 which direct translation means “fish lips” and 翅裙 (the “skirt” or tail of the fin). The texture is close enough to shark fin but is of much lower grade and include the skin of the shark’s tail, and of course if one braises it properly it has collagen and cartilage. Once they are dried, they firm up and become more solidified, and thus appears as whole rather than individual threads (like a pomelo).

It is possible that is the substitute that is being used, or it could be not from a shark like what was already said. Easiest thing to do is to ask the restaurant to clarify (bring a fluent Cantonese speaker with you who can ask directly if it is 魚唇 / 翅裙 and from what fish or shark varietal.

Personally I would rather have braised fish maw (the floaters) which have a ton of collagen, using the same superior stock braise (mature chicken/Chinese ham/dried scallops, cornstarch thickened) with goose or duck web, mushroom and abalone with mustard greens instead, way more umami and far more delicious. Or the “vegetarian” version of braised pomelo skin with dried shrimp roe (with the same style braise stock)…but I don’t think anyone in the US can do a proper version of that…

If you want a reputable source to tell you what seafood to eat, you should buy your fish from a reputable fishmonger and ask that person about how the fish was caught, or tell him your concerns and seek his recommendation. If you’re in a pinch and can’t do that, you can feel pretty safe with anything caught on a baited hook.

The point of my example (and sorry if it was long and off topic) was that if you’re looking for facts, you won’t get them on that list. With their guidance, you’re unlikely to buy something that’s irresponsibly harvested – they probably won’t miss that way very often. But you are very likely to be wrongfully turned away from some great seafood, and some might even wrongfully judge the proprietor of said seafood, and that would be a bummer. Like anything else I post on this board (except jokes,) my only intention is to be helpful.

I’ve been reading your “authoritative advice” and you always side against caution, shoot down every source as being unreliable, counter with one example while locally SCUBA diving (where regulation is far more intense than 100s-1000s of miles from land) and give recs where it is far too general and aspects of it are in fact not safe.

Unless you are out there recording info that refutes these “unreliable sources” (by SCUBA diving, means every part of each ocean multiple times in areas considered fishing areas), I am suspect of your advice and sources that are third hand at best.

My diving was mostly in the South Pacific in the 80s-90s. Observation through diving not only allows you to observe what is there, but also what is not. Apex predators are easy to observe. The rest of the web is more difficult and is often very time intensive. The results of the missing pieces are usually easy to see. Hair algae, decimated kelp forests, ranges of coral being overgrazed, and habitat no longer suitable for a self sustaining ecosystem.

More importantly, observing who is hashing out business deals with locals (who have varying amounts of jurisdiction over fishing rights around various islands) is more umportant. I observed Aussie, Taiwanese and Korean reps of fleets initiate large scale fishing ops upon gaining permission. Parts of Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon islands were in my observations The locals’ end of the deal usually includes cash for the local leaders (maybe a new skiff/outboard) and commodities like tobacco, liquor, and low wage jobs on the fishing boats or piecemeal offers for the younger men to harvest organisms like sea cucumbers (lots of decompression deaths/permanent injuries). The results in the oceans are what I referred to earlier - things you don’t see - from sea cucumbers to apex predators, leaving large holes in the local food chains/webs. When enough of these holes form in the webs, it is like parts of a watch being taken out by people who don’t know or don’t care about watches and how they operate.

3 Likes