Show: March 25, 2012:
- The Supreme Court and the Individual Mandate
- Art Caplan: Legal & Moral Views of the Individual Mandate
- Myth: Sleeping Problems Increase With Age
- Vaccine Recommendation for Adults
- Doc Chat: Alcohol and Breast Cancer Risk
- Toxic Shark Fins
- Book: Organize Your Mind Organize Your Life
- View all topics for the week
Checkup: Toxic Shark Fins
An alarming study came across my computer earlier today: Shark fins, which some consider a delicacy, can be contaminated with a toxin made from seafaring bacteria. This toxin has been linked to several brain diseases, including Alzheimerís and Lou Gehrigís disease.
I was horrified by this. People eating shark fins?! This is nearly as shocking as the news last year that people could get leprosy from eating tainted armadillo.
To get the sharksí side of the story, I called Kaitlyn Gaffney of the Ocean Conservancy. As it turns out, sharks should be giving each other high-fives over this study. At least the ones who still can.
"The main demand for shark fin is in Asia. Hong Kong is the biggest market. Sharks are caught, fins are removed, hacked off, the rest of the carcass is typically thrown back. The shark fins have a much greater value in the marketplace than the rest of the shark meat, so to avoid taking too much space on the fishing vessel, they just land the fins."
This is pretty wasteful, of course, and itís not good for shark populations. Adding insult to injury, sharks arenít even losing their fins because they taste so good.
"I've never tasted shark fins, but what Iíve heard over and over again is theyíre tasteless. Instead, itís a texture, a rubbery, chewy texture that is seen as appealing."
In the new study, researchers checked the fins of seven types of sharks off the coast of South Florida. Some of these types arenít doing well enough these days to be losing part of their population to the soup pot, Gaffney says.
"I hope that this new research does dampen the appetite for shark fins. Sharks canít survive their current popularity as a food source, and anything that would decrease interest in eating shark fins would be good for sharks and hopefully good for people."
Fortunately for the sharks, recent years have seen a growing trend in regulations against shark finning and trading in these fins. And if youíre hankering for that rubbery texture without the bad karma - and the neurotoxins - youíre in luck too. Certain noodles and mushrooms can do a decent shark-fin imitation, at a much cheaper cost.
Iím Eric Metcalf, and I say any mushroom doing a shark imitation deserves to be eaten.