Shark Fin for All

Shark fin dumplings: not a "luxury" item

On Sunday morning, our family schlepped out to Rosemead for my niece’s 17th birthday. The destination for Isabel’s festivities was Sea Harbor, one of my brother Jonathan’s favorite dim sum places in the county. After all of these decades of grubbing with Jonathan, I generally don’t even bother looking at a menu or making an order. However, since it was a seafood palace AND the big vote on AB 376 is scheduled for today or Wednesday, I decided to see what shark fin soup went for on the menu.

Much to my dismay, not only did I see three different kinds of shark fin dumplings on the menu, but now the taste of extinction is affordable for all. The myth of shark fin’s availability for weddings and banquets is just that. In today’s society where shark fin dumplings have become a staple at dim sum, everyone can indulge in the consumption of the ocean’s apex predators.  Continue reading

A Reel Opportunity

Fish consumption warnings have greatly expanded in Los Angeles, from Seal Beach to Santa Monica

Earlier in the week, Frankie Orrala and James Alamillo gave a staff presentation in our office on the progress of the Pier Angler Outreach Program coordinated by Heal the Bay, EPA and the Fish Contamination Education Collaborative (FCEC).  Frankie and James have run Heal the Bay’s program for eight years.  Their achievements, along with the efforts of the outreach workers, have been nothing short of astounding.

To date, the program has educated nearly 100,000 anglers at eight different piers: Santa Monica, Venice, Hermosa, Redondo, Pier J, Rainbow Harbor, Belmont and Seal Beach piers. (Cabrillo Marine Aquarium educates Cabrillo Pier anglers).  The risk communication efforts focus on the health risks of eating locally caught DDT-, PCB- and mercury-contaminated fish.  The outreach workers encourage anglers to avoid the most compromised fish, and they provide fishermen with cooking methods if they choose to eat any contaminated catch.

Risk communication has occurred in multiple languages, including Tagolog, English, Chinese, Hmong and Spanish. Here is a rough ethnic breakdown of anglers that have been educated:

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Contamination is Forever

In the field of water quality regulation, sewage treatment plant and industrial dischargers often have strict numeric limits on the amount of pollutants they can discharge.  In some cases, for highly toxic pollutants like organochlorines and mercury, the limits can be at the parts per billion or even per trillion level.

As a result of the Federal Clean Water Act and the California Porter Cologne Act requirements, most individual sources of pollutants have decreased their toxics discharge by an order of magnitude or more over the last 30 years.

On the opposite side of the regulatory continuum are contaminated sediments.

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Fish Fight

Jonathan Gold's diet would put a mako's to shame.

My brother Jonathan Gold, the food writer, will moderate a panel Wednesday night on sustainable seafood at the Skirball Center.  Zocalo is putting on the free event.  The other panelists will be renowned seafood chef Michael Cimarusti, from Providence, and Logan Kock, the chief buyer and seafood encyclopedia from Santa Monica Seafood.  Michael and Logan are two of the most knowledgeable people in the field of sustainable seafood, and definitely a heck of a lot more informed on the issues than the Gold Brothers.  But my focus will be on the moderator.

This will be our first public dust-up on seafood issues since our whale wars over a year ago.  Jonathan has the advantage.  This is definitely a foodie audience and, as moderator, he has control of the mike.  I still have a fighter’s chance because the topic is sustainable seafood and Jonathan may not have been in an ocean since his high school days.

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Paradise Lost

Enough Inhofe: Senators need to start thinking less about the welfare of the petroleum industry.

Today marks the one-month anniversary of the Gulf oil spill.  What are you doing to celebrate? On Tuesday, U.S. Sen James Inhofe, the infamous climate change denier, decided to give BP a $9.925 billion dollar gift by opposing the effort to raise the oil spill liability cap to $10 billion. That sure beats a Starbucks gift card. 

Inhofe’s bogus argument (similar to Alaska Sen. Murkowski’s excuse last week) is that increased liability cap would penalize small, mom-and-pop oil companies. (Are there any?)

Wake up Congress!! There shouldn’t be a liability cap at all!!  If the oil spill causes damages, then the companies responsible must be forced to pay the entire cost of cleanup. This seems fair and equitable. Our representatives need to start thinking about natural resources and economic damages rather than the welfare of the petroleum industry.

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Off the Hook

The U.S. Attorney’s office has apparently decided to forego prosecution of The Hump for selling endangered Sei whale sashimi to the makers of the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove.” Evidently, the owners’ self-imposed death sentence for the Santa Monica restaurant satisfied the feds.

Self-flagellation should not be a substitute for law enforcement. I don’t really care too much about the fine, although the delicious justice of penalties going to Sea Shepherd would be perfect. But I do care that this gross violation of the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act and CITES should result in a larger investigation.

Who sold The Hump the whale? Who caught the whale in Japan? Who sold the whale to a U.S. distributor? Where else does that distributor do business and what will the feds do to shut them down? The Hump transaction may have been the tip of the iceberg for illegal trade to sushi restaurants.

Will we get answers to these questions? Now that the U.S dropped the prosecution, the likelihood of true justice for this heinous crime is zero.

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Japanese Delicacy

The so-called apology from the owners of the Hump, posted on their website, speaks for itself:

”The charge against the restaurant is true: The Hump served whale meat to customers looking to eat what in Japan is widely served as a delicacy … We sincerely apologize. We pledge to work hard to re-earn the trust of the public and respect of our customers.”

 

Media Splash

Media attention rightly places heat on the Hump's owners. Photo: chewgooder.wordpress.com

About 100 outraged protesters came out to the beleaguered Hump restaurant during lunchtime today, shouting their displeasure with the Santa Monica eatery serving endangered whale meat. The Hump didn’t even bother opening due to the buzz surrounding the protest. 

Sea Shepherd organized the rally and members of  “The Cove” production team, Pelican Rescue and PETA all turned out in force. A couple of folks came dressed in Orca costumes, amid shouting and protest signs that included “Dump the Hump,” “Free Willy,” “The Hump Blows” and “Just Sei No!”  One sign included owner Brian Vidor’s supposed phone number.

Sea Shepherd will continue holding court at The Hump all day and into the night.

Media coverage of the protest was extensive, including broadcasters from Japan. Keeping the public pressure on the restaurant encourages the strongest possible actions from the Feds, which have filed charges against the restaurant for violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Hopefully, the Feds will seek at least $200K fines and jail time.

Also, Santa Monica’s city attorney should report back to the City Council at the March 23 meeting about possible action against the Hump, which sits on city-owned land. Short of putting human body parts on the menu, there isn’t anything worse than serving whale to restaurant customers. So business license revocation or lease termination are critical potential actions that the Santa Monica City Council could take. Stay tuned for possible Santa Monica government action.

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City to Investigate the Hump

At last night’s Santa Monica City Council meeting I spoke during public comment about what should be done about the Hump’s egregious and illegal serving of endangered whale meat.

Santa Monica City Attorney Marsha Moutrie responded that her office will investigate the illegality of The Hump’s actions at a restaurant located on city property at the airport.

The standard lease clause allows the city to terminate a lease in the event that the owners commit a crime, Moutrie said. Also, the city can revoke a business license for illegal activity.

Moutrie promised to come back to the city council with the results of the office investigation by the next council meeting in two weeks.

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Sei It Ain’t So!

The Hump in Santa Monica is under fire for allegedly sourcing endangered whale meat from the back of a Mercedes.

By now you’ve probably heard that Santa Monica restaurant the Hump allegedly served endangered Sei whale meat to the team that put together the brilliant, Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove.” Endangered whale served in our own backyard, less than two miles from my house and the offices of Heal the Bay, Santa Monica Baykeeper and the NRDC!

When my wife Lisette first called me about the New York Times piece I thought she was citing The Onion, not the Times. Then I got pissed.

I sent an e-mail to some Santa Monica city councilmembers asking them to take action immediately. Santa Monica is known as one of the most environmentally sensitive cities in the nation, so a local sushi house selling whale is an outrage and an embarrassment.

Councilmember Kevin McKeown, a vegetarian, responded by asking City Attorney Marsha Moutrie to investigate if a violation of the law is grounds for revoking the Hump’s business license.

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