Popular Chinatown restaurant drops shark fin soup

Coun. Kerry Jang announces menu change at Vision fundraiser at Floata

Well-known Chinese seafood restaurant Floata has dropped shark fin soup from its menu.

Coun. Kerry Jang, who's campaigned against the controversial but popular and expensive menu item, announced the move at a Tuesday-night Vision Vancouver fundraiser held at the restaurant located on Keefer Street.

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Vision has held several events at Floata over the years, but Jang told the Courier the party wouldn't have been booked there if the restaurant continued serving the soup.

Before selecting the venue for the fundraiser, Vision secured a letter of understanding signed by Antonio Hung, a Floata manager, Sept. 29, which states he [does] not support or condone the serving of shark fin soup in my restaurant under any circumstance from this day forward.

Hung confirmed the decision when contacted by the Courier.

Stepan Vdovine, Vision's managing director, said since the letter was signed, the party has held two events at Floata — the second annual Women of Vision dim sum brunch in mid-October and Tuesday's annual fall banquet.

Moving forward it is our policy that venues serving shark fin soup will not be used for any of our outreach or fundraising events, Vdovine wrote in an email to the Courier.

Selling shark fin products is legal but critics say the harvesting of them is inhumane and wasteful.

City council passed a motion in September to work with Richmond and Burnaby to develop a regional ban on the sale of shark fin products, while the Union of B.C. Municipalities recently passed a motion pushing to ban the importation of shark fin products to Canada.

Jang cited a 2011 Mustel Group poll, which revealed 77 per cent of B.C. respondents of Chinese ancestry are against the importation of shark fin imports into Canada.

"That's very much in line with what I hear from the Chinese community that I'm a part of the vast majority are saying OK, it's time to move on. And it's really quite generational so the younger you are, the more likely you have no interest in shark fin," he said.

Jang, a third-generation Canadian who speaks some Cantonese, said his campaign against shark fin products has generated a lot of support in the non-Chinese community, but reaction has been mixed in the Chinese community.

Comments published in Chinese media have been particularly critical. David Chung, owner of The Jade Seafood Restaurant and head of the B.C. Asian Restaurant and Cafe Owners Association, was quoted in Ming Pao Sept. 19. According to a translation provided to the Courier of a remark that refers to Jang, Chung said: He was born in Canada. He has been influenced by Western Culture since childhood and not familiar with Chinese culture, never mind the deep cultural significance of shark fin and Chinese natural attachment to shark fin. He is not a Chinese! He is a Banana! He is doing this to score some lowly political point! Lots of our restaurateurs have vowed not voting for him next time.

"[The reaction is] a lot better than I thought, Jang said. I thought I was in for a real rough ride, but what made it kind of hard was the Chinese media was really playing up the issues and really trying to sensationalize the issue a bit."

Jang, 50, served shark fin soup at his own wedding in 1993, but changed his opinion about the delicacy six years ago when planning a dinner for his colleagues in the faculty of medicine at UBC. When Jang came up with a suggested menu from a Chinese restaurant, which included shark fin soup, his assistant filled him in on the controversy.

On Wednesday, Jang said hes pleased Floata has also changed its position.

"It clearly sends a message. It really depends on the clientele a restaurant's trying to attract. In Vancouver's changing Chinatown, I think the economics are saying you have to go beyond the Chinese community for your business. Places like Richmond, which rely almost entirely on Chinese-only business are going to have a more difficult time accepting it, but I think change is coming."

noconnor@vancourier.com

Twitter: @Naoibh

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