* Study shows 81 percent of samples from at-risk species
* Tests done at 51 restaurants in 14 U.S. cities
* "You need to care about sharks" - attack survivor
By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO, Fla., Aug 9 Survivors of shark attacks
- now trying to save the animals that took their limbs and, in
some cases, nearly their lives - want U.S. restaurant-goers to
know they may be eating a threatened species in their shark fin
Out of 32 samples taken across the country of the Chinese
delicacy with identifiable shark DNA, 26 bowls, or 81 percent,
contained fins from sharks listed as endangered, vulnerable or
near threatened, according to a report released on Thursday by
the Pew Environment Group.
The study was based on tests of the soup in 14 U.S. cities,
and shark attack survivors collected the soup samples.
The survivors hope the study will help convince the public
that the ultimate price of shark fin soup is more than the
typical $100 listed on menus.
Nearly one-third of shark species are in danger of
extinction, and up to 73 million sharks are killed each year for
their fins, Pew said.
President Barack Obama signed a law last year to tighten a
ban on the practice of removing sharks' fins and throwing the
fish back into the ocean to die. Fins also can come from legal,
"What better voice is there than ours?" said Mike Coots, 32,
of Kauai, Hawaii, a surfer whose right leg was ripped off by a
tiger shark in 1997.
The survivors group has lobbied Congress to close loopholes
in the shark fin ban. It also works through the United Nations
to encourage the establishment of shark sanctuaries around the
Their efforts began after Debbie Salamone, a competitive
ballroom dancer, had her Achilles tendon severed by a shark off
Florida's coast in 2004.
The shark encounter eventually lead her to refocus her
life's work on protecting the animals from extinction and
recruiting other shark attack survivors around the globe to help
with her mission.
"Most of us have forgiven," said Salamone, 46, who is now a
Pew spokeswoman. "If you care about the ocean, you need to care
SECRET SOUP SAMPLES
For the shark fin soup study, shark attack survivors fanned
out to a total of 51 restaurants in New York, Boston, Chicago,
Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, Las Vegas, Denver, Seattle, San
Francisco, the Washington, D.C., area, Fort Lauderdale and
Orlando in Florida, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Krishna Thompson, 46, whose leg was stripped to bone by a
shark during a 2001 wedding anniversary trip to the Bahamas and
later amputated, said he collected soup samples from six or
seven different restaurants in New York.
"I would always take the soup to go," Thompson said.
Once outside the restaurants, Thompson said he would label
the soup containers for submission to DNA testers at Stony Brook
"Hating sharks helps no one," said Thompson, who nearly died
from blood loss and organ shutdown after his shark attack.
The most egregious soup sample, from a restaurant in Boston,
contained the endangered scalloped hammerhead shark, according
to the report.
DNA from sharks listed as vulnerable was found in seven soup
samples from Orlando, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las
Vegas and Albuquerque.
Another 18 soup samples contained shark considered near
threatened, according to the findings.
The remaining samples contained shark meat that could not be
specifically identified due to the quality of the DNA or the
lack of useable DNA. In three cases, the only identifiable meat
came from chicken or other fish, according to the report.
John Breall, a San Francisco lawyer who represents
Asian-American restaurateurs, importers and civic leaders, is
fighting a new California ban on the possession or sale of fins,
which he calls "anti-Chinese." Breall told Reuters he was
surprised by the Pew group's findings.
"There are major shark fisheries on the east and west
coasts, sustainable fisheries, and these supply the vast
majority of shark meat and shark fins," Breall said.
Breall said most of the shark from the sustainable fisheries
is spiny dogfish, which "are reproducing at a huge rate." The
Pew study lists spiny dogfish as vulnerable.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Vicki Allen)