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Chicago Needs to Go Fin-Free for Shark Week (It's the Law!)

Nick Magrisso

Posted August 6, 2013 in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and WIld Places

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This was a glorious weekend in Chicago. Beautiful weather, tons of summer events and music that makes this such an easy town to enjoy. I was buoyed by an active weekend of fun that I decided to cap off by trying Yelp's most highly rated dim sum restaurant in Chinatown.

It was a major summer BUMMER.

Upon opening the menu, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me – shark fin soup? Why were shark fin soup and many other shark fin dishes being offered? The State of Illinois ban on shark fin sales  was supposed to kick in last month.  Clearly, not everyone has gotten the news.

shark menu.JPG

Unfortunately, there was not a manager around when I was at the restaurant, but you can be sure I called to register my disappointment. I am not suggesting that this restaurant is willingly and knowingly breaking the law—they may be in the belated process of printing new menus—but Illinois law does stipulate a bans on the sale, possession or trade of shark fins, no: ifs ands or buts. More importantly, the near universal support for Illinois' shark fin ban shows that the social license for a dish that is emptying our oceans of a key species (and threatening to upend the ecosystem as a result) is running out.

This isn’t just a Chicago thing. It is cropping up around the country because folks are coming to recognize that they actually have a role in addressing this global problem. 

But there's a marketing case to be made too. After all, it’s Shark Week! There is no better time of year to debut a fin-free menu when shark fans are put into a cable TV feeding frenzy – in my experience, often fueled by food deliveries. That’s why we are calling on restaurants around town (and the state) to do their part to take a bite out of the demand fueling this barbaric trade. Not only is it the right thing to do; it’s the law!

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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