Shark Truth takes us to sea with their Jammin' Shark Boat Party
Although you won’t hear the "I'm On a Boat" song at Shark Truth’s three year anniversary party, you’ll be able to say it and live it as you cruise through False Creek and around Vancouver. Enjoy delicious food from The Reef and Calabash Bistro, feel the reggae beat from DJ Tank Gyal and sip on a Caribbean cocktail while supporting an organization fighting to save sharks from extinction.
The fundraiser party runs from 7-10pm on Wednesday June 20th and is only $35 with all proceeds going to support Shark Truth and the preservation of sharks. Like any good party it will happen rain or shine, as the boat is predominantly covered with an outdoor deck to enjoy the views. Attire is casual but its encouraged to wear or bring a fun hat or wig for the Jammin’ Shark Photo Booth. There will also be a silent auction of Canucks goodies (how appropriate) and locally sponsored prizes.
Every year, approximately 73 million sharks are poached for their fins. At this rate, it’s estimated that 25 species are at risk of extinction within our lifetime (IUCN, 2010). For many a shark is seen as simply a threat, something to be feared, with movies like Jaws skewing our attitude towards the beautiful creature. In reality, sharks are top predators but they maintain the health and balance of our ocean ecosystem. Although sharks have existed on this planet for over 400 million years, their populations have nose-dived this past century as fishers have realized the value of their fin. Unlike many other sea creatures sharks only birth an average of 2-3 pups a year, making the ratio of sharks killed to sharks born completely unbalanced.
A chat with Claudia Li, the founder of Shark Truth enlightened me on this troubling issue and told me a little more about the event they're throwing.
Is their some significance to the June 20th date?
"It's the first day of summer! And this month is also our third-year anniversary. So we're celebrating our achievements and bringing inspiration from the sun and this season for our future endeavors."
And the reggae theme?
"It's lively. It celebrates music, art, dance and to me, represents summer and warmth."
What do you hope to have achieved in ten years with Shark Truth?
"To educate and empower the Wah Yun / Hua Ren community (community of people of Chinese descent) in Canada and across the world on how they can take action on conservation issues."
Do you feel that the younger generation who seems to be realizing the consequences of their actions will be able to persuade their elders that what they're doing is wrong? Can you "teach an old dog new tricks?"
"Yes! Younger folks have a lot of power in their family and community, more than they know sometimes. You can see this in the wedding couples that enter our Happy Hearts Love Sharks wedding contest. Last year's winning bride, Judy, had a difficult time convincing her parents are first but now her father brags about how his daughter stood up for something she believed in to his friends.
Also, our elders have experienced what it means to work hard for our kid’s futures. They understand that we're just doing the same for our children's, and their grandchildren's, future as well: doing our part to create and protect a healthy planet for our family and culture to live on."
Have you eaten any of the shark free alternative soups? Which was your favorite? Do you think that is a viable option that people will eventually accept, like tofurkey is used to replace turkey?
"There are thousands of different types of Fin Free alternatives. My favourite is fish and goji berry soup because goji berries represent fertility and brightness/colour. It's about changing our mentalities about this product – that we can represent virtues of generosity in different ways."
It seems family is important to you. How did your family react when you made this decision to start Shark Truth?
"My parents were concerned that working as a young entrepreneur, it would be hard to earn a living and grow my career. They got over it quickly though when they realized I'm committed to this cause and social change. I'm very grateful for parents who support and are proud of me. My mom convinces all her friends to go Fin Free, even though I never asked her to."
About shark finning and the desire of shark fins
Shark finning refers to the removal and retention of shark fins. Since shark meat is considered low value and the finis high profit they sharks are thrown back in to the ocean after having their fin removed. Often they are still alive through the process and when tossed back in to the water they are left with very little hope as they sink to the bottom of the ocean unable to swim. In this state the once powerful creature is left vulnerable and defenseless and will often be eaten by other predators. Any shark is taken-regardless of age, size, or species.
Although considered one of the eight treasured foods from the sea by the Chinese, and a delicacy both rare and delicious the fin actually holds no flavour and is used specifically for texture in shark fin soup. For this reason, and knowing that the world’s shark population is plummeting, it makes little sense that the fin would not be replaced with an alternative ingredient, except that it’s a Chinese tradition dating back to the Ming Dynasty. Shark fin soup holds both culinary and symbolic significance, representing wealth, power, prestige and honor. It is not an everyday meal but is served as gourmet Chinese cuisine at weddings, banquets, and important business deals. This dish is a sign of respect, honor, and appreciation to the guests, but is it breaking a culture and being racist when re-evaluating a certain ethnic tradition?
“Some argue that the topic of shark fin is a racial issue. I respectfully disagree. Racism is the attack on something that cannot be changed (like the way we look). The fact is that we all care about our planet and the mass decimation of sharks is something that can be changed. The Chinese consumer is one of the many culprits in this cause, and it is indeed up to us to change some of our customs but if we continue to look at the issue from a narrow-minded racial perspective, then we are missing the bigger picture of ecological preservation.” - Claudia Li
There are many organizations in the world that are working towards the common goal of preserving and protecting sharks from this inhumane act. Like Shark Truth they need out support to see their initiatives through. It’s a heavy topic but fundraising can be done in a light-hearted way. Shark Truth is doing just that with their Jammin’ Shark Boat Party.
For more information on the organization or to purchase a ticket to the event go to their site sharktruth.com.
About Shark Truth
Claudia Li, a first generation Chinese-Canadian with a passion for food and community, founded Shark Truth in 2009 after realizing the power of cross-cultural storytelling to invoke change for shark conservation.
“When I learned about the wasteful and ecologically damaging practice of shark finning, and how shark fin soup was brought from the sea to my bowl, I knew I had to do something. Because growing up in a traditional Chinese family, I also know that our culture is one based in harmony, respect for nature, family and community. My parents immigrated to Canada with the goal of creating a future for their children – and they worked hard to do it. Now, it’s our responsibility to make sure we have sharks and healthy oceans to carry on this legacy for this generation, and many more to come.”
Shark Truth is a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to promoting awareness, education and action for sharks by building a community around change and creating long-term champions from within the community. Through their campaigns they have saved over 2,800 sharks from being eaten by diverting 28,000 bowls of shark fin from consumption.
“To effectively protect sharks, we need to simultaneously work on a bottom-up and top-down approach. Firstly, we need education to build a foundation of awareness and understanding. Secondly, we need to support legislation that protect sharks by stopping the import, sale, possession and trade of shark fin. Shark Truth encourages political leaders and activists to engage and consult with all stakeholders involved before introducing legislation.”