Hungry? (He probably is.)

…a billion or so tons of bright-orange cheese styrofoam…

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, what with revolutions in the Middle East, palm trees in Wisconsin, Global Climate Catastrophic Extreme Planet-Killing CO2 Gas Everywhere and too darn many rich people, we have a new crisis on the horizon:  we’re running low on sharks.

It seems those always-pesky Chinese have an unseemly fondness for shark fins, specifically in their soup.  No Chinese banquet is complete without this delicacy, which serves both to nourish the diners and display the wealth of the host, as it’s very goddamn expensive to feed shark fins to dozens of people, for reasons you can well imagine.  But demand for fins has soared with China’s prosperity, as newly-enriched fathers of the bride, real estate magnates and manufacturing moguls confirm their opulence with lavish parties, where the soup is de riguer, as its absence, in the words of one authority, “means you’re cheap.”

As a result, conservationists warn that the global shark population is in a severe decline, which in turn disturbs the entire oceanic food chain, where the shark is understandably near the top, along with orcas, sperm whales and long liners out of Nantucket.  Here we should also note that there is another Chinese liquid delicacy called dog brain soup, which should alarm our readers, as a shark has a lot more fins than a dog has brains, with correspondingly dire implications for collies et. al.  So far, however, we have found nothing in the media about this; perhaps the press — predictably, we think — finds sharks more cuddly than corgis, and is therefore more sympathetic to their plight.

Still, we probably need to do something about this, but what measures could be undertaken to protect our sharks remains a puzzle.  We could suggest politely that the Chinese find an acceptable substitute of similar ostentation.  There are many candidates, but all seem to come with the same potential for species decimation.  We could appeal to the Chinese sense of fair play, but given their fondness for tradition, we suspect they would find this approach amusing at best.  Finally, we could threaten them with sanctions.  That always works.

All this is dispiriting, because the fact is, we need our sharks.  Lifeguards, nature TV, Steven Spielberg and many other life forms require them for their survival.  But a solution may be on the horizon.  We understand that Japanese youth have little taste for whale meat, and the long-festering dilemma of Japanese whalers filleting armadas of Moby Dicks diminishes in severity with each passing year.  Perhaps we can hope for a similar development in China, where an increasingly open commerce with the West may result in changing attitudes towards soup courses.  We have already noted the difficulty in finding a substitute for shark’s fin, but we do not have the imagination of the American food industry.  Somewhere, in a country that can persuade its citizens to eat a billion or so tons of bright-orange cheese styrofoam a year, there must be someone who can figure out how to dupe the Chinese into doing something similar.  Hell, they already eat dog brains, remember?  How hard can it be?