Tuesday, January 27, 2009

There is Hope!

Lawrence Groth and Christopher Chin chat with Peter Knights from WildAid

There is no light at the end of the tunnel yet.
But there is definitely hope.

When we were planning this event, we never expected any of these establishments to throw down their soup pots and surrender without a fight.
But we did get one after all.

We had a fantastic weekend.

On Saturday, Lawrence Groth and Bob Mc Nerney from Shark Safe and Christopher Chin from COARE joined forces. As a team we went into Chinatown together, we verified several restaurants that serve shark fin soup, and identified a number of markets that sell fins. We provided information in English and Chinese to each of these proprietors, and engaged in some friendly discussion. In all but a few cases, we were treated with respect, and number of restaurateurs seemed quite interested and said they would consider removing shark fin soup from their menus.

We also ran into two restaurant owners who were very much opposed to shark fin soup (one of which was previously and mistakenly noted as offering the soup). We will be working with these two restaurants to help set an example and encourage others to follow the same path.

Sitting down with a map and our notes from the day, we decided upon the most effective approach and prioritized locations to picket the next day.

Sunday's healthy turnout was welcomed by a warm sunny morning at Portsmouth Square.
After everyone signed in, we gave a briefing and then led several groups up to start with the markets. We were cheered on by passersby, cars honked in support, and even a few of the bus drivers shouted kudos. Our next wave placed participants in carefully selected locations near popular restaurants serving the soup. At the end of the day, we had one restaurant agree to remove it from their menu, and another offered to stop serving it if we would help with the costs of reprinting the menus. We'll be following up with both, and will report back.

Among the participants were one couple Kevin and Liz who flew up from LA to be there and also four young men from LA who drove all night to be there and join the protest. The rest were mostly all from the Bay Area and all were enthusiastic. It was a great group of shark people.
Among the visitors to the Shark Safe HQ set up at Portsmouth Square was Peter Knight the executive director of Wildaid. Peter was feeling under the weather and could not stay out in the cold but he did offer some great suggestions and support for future events.

While we were making plans for this weekend's events, it came to our attention that other groups were working on similar programs in the area. WildAid and COARE teamed up to create the Shark-friendly Communities project a few years ago. But has not been active in any efforts recently. In fact a little over a year ago Wildaid had mailed a letter very similar to the letter that we hand delivered on Saturday to every restaurant in SF that served shark fin soup asking the owners of these restaurants to open a dialog with Wildaid regarding the shark finning issue. They sadly received absolutely NO response.

COARE has planned to start a similar campaign to the successful "Dolphin Safe" campaign of the 1980's. We also modeled our "Shark Safe"organization after the same. With two organizations with the same ideas and the same goals, great things can happen!
We found that we're all pointed in the same direction, and we're combining our forces - our resources, energy, enthusiasm, and our supporters, to have a greater impact in San Francisco and around the world.

Stay tuned for new developments.

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