“Sharks Left for Dead,” Feature, 3/16
It’s long past the time for the human race to give up many of their fond “cultural traditions.” Before there were countless billions of us on the planet, shark fins, tiger penis, whales, etc., could be harvested in a sustainable manner. Here in North America the Inuits are unwilling to give up their ancestral whale-hunting rights. However, our ancestors could not have envisioned factory boats, large-caliber rifles, explosive harpoons, or the notion of bycatch. I am all in favor of each of us keeping our cultural traditions alive, with the proviso that hunters and fisherman stick to their ancestral ways of hunting. When hunters set to sea in unsafe little dhows and sealskin boats, and if indeed, every part of the animal is used, then I will be more accepting of cultural traditions.
Brian O’Neil, El Cerrito
Not Just Fins
All the right legislation is in place for the Galapagos (shark fin exports are illegal, as are shark fishing and longlining) but shark populations continue to plunge. Schools of three hundred hammerhead sharks are now rare, though visitors are happy to see thirty sharks.
If we want our children to still be able to see hammerheads when they visit the Galapagos in another few decades, we need a complete ban that will be simple to enforce. This ban can always be lifted or modified when shark populations recover a bit.
After we pass our shark fin ban, we still have to persuade other countries like Hong Kong and China to pass similar legislation. Let’s do the best we can while this is in our hands.
As a Chinese immigrant from Singapore and Hong Kong who grew up eating shark fin soup, I do not perceive the shark fin ban to be a cultural attack at all. Shark fin is not a cultural delicacy that has been singled out to be banned — foie gras has already been banned. Even China is considering a ban on shark fin trade: Ding Liguo, deputy to the National People’s Congress, proposed that China’s top legislature ban the trade of shark fin.
I urge everyone to e-mail your assemblymember and senator in support of the shark fin ban (Assembly Bill 376). More information is at SharkSavers.org/en/blogs/722-support-needed-california-shark-fin-bill.html and PostHumanAnimal.blogspot.com.
As to the comment that sharks aren’t huggable like pandas, I was amazed to see these friendly sharks who like being petted and hugged: YouTube.com/watch?v=slsIfINSKNU.
Hugging pandas, on the other hand, is definitely not recommended.
Yvonne Chu, San Francisco
Stop the Barbarism
Thank you for your article pointing out the cruelty and ecological harm caused by people consuming shark fin soup. The only disagreement I have is that it is totally false that “[e]nvironmentalists recognize that longlining … is here to stay” and that we only want “fishermen to tie their hooks with nylon.” Longlining is a hideously destructive practice that, as your article points out, kills large amounts of animals not intended to be caught, such as turtles and birds. Along with bottom trawling, it amounts to strip-mining the oceans. We have won victories in places like California and Hawaii that have prohibited longlining in order to save these animals from needless deaths. No real environmentalist would ever resign him- or herself to accepting this immoral killing of wildlife and destruction of the environment.
The barbaric practice of cutting off sharks’ fins must be stopped. As the article clearly shows, attempting to regulate fishing practices without restricting or prohibiting consumption is completely ineffective. I have personally witnessed people catching baby sharks at the Berkeley Pier, cutting off their fins, and throwing them back into the water to die. I was both sickened and outraged by what I saw. Claims of racism are nothing more than illegitimately playing the race card. It matters not one bit whether the people engaged in this practice are of Asian, European, African, or other descent, and I didn’t even notice what color the people were who were doing this, nor do I care. What does matter is what they are doing, and it’s hideously cruel and destructive.
People should not be hunting predators.These animals are at the tops of their food chains and are needed in order to keep their ecosystems healthy. They are also not a quality source of nutrition, as your article points out. The only reason sharks are targeted is for their fins, and this must be stopped.
It’s fine to kill animals to eat them, that’s the way life on our planet works. But killing an animal that you should not be hunting in the first place and torturing it just so you can make money from its fins is completely inexcusable. I strongly support the proposed legislation and hope it becomes law very soon.
Jeff Hoffman, San Francisco
Not Part of My Heritage
As a Chinese Canadian who grew up in Malaysia, let me say that we never considered shark fin soup as part of our culture or heritage. Even when I was a child the soup was only seen at banquets held by those eager to show off their wealth and it remains the same symbol of wealth today — nothing cultural about that.I had no problems with Fong and Huffman’s proposal when it came out but I had a huge problem with Senator Yee trying to turn this into a racial issue when it isn’t. Along with thousands of Chinese from Hong Kong to Singapore, I have written in to support Assemblymen Fong and Huffman as we need to turn this back into an issue of conservation, not racism.
Robert Hii, Scarborough, ON, Canada
Veggie Is the Way to Go
I’m so glad you wrote about shark finning. It’s about time one of the visible, albeit regional, newspapers wrote an article on the cruelty of the war on animals that is happening all around the globe. Everywhere animals are abused in horrid ways at the hands of humans. It sickens my heart to think of it and indeed Gandhi’s quote about the integrity of a nation, of a world in this case, is so telling.
I want to address a couple of things mentioned in the article. I would like to clarify that it is not an attack on Asian culture as some have claimed. This is an environmental issue, an animal rights issue, not a racist issue. Asians are welcome to be Asian, the Chinese can be as Chinese as they want. It’s the practice of inflicting cruelty and suffering on other sentient beings that is the issue and must stop. Can the Chinese not have all other traditions minus this one? Aren’t there plenty of other Chinese customs that can be carried out? The oceans are dying. Must the Chinese have this one tradition that helps it along? Can they not give it up for the sake of the good of all, the good of the Earth and all of us who live here?
One woman is quoted as saying something like, “Well, you might as well outlaw chicken, beef, lamb, etc.” Well, duh … yeah. Agribusiness is another huge animal abuse issue and many races are the culprits. Millions of animals are living a horrid nightmare until they are killed in factory farms to feed our meat-eating habit. Vegetarianism and veganism are the only compassionate ways to get sustenance in this day and age — unless perhaps you live on a farm and practice compassionate farming. I’m not opposed to eating meat, as long as the animal gets to live a life without suffering and dies in a compassionate way, fast and painless, at the end of its life. We in the city don’t have that luxury, of course. If we are to harm none, and have the big picture in mind, caring for the environment, our home, this Earth we live on, and not self-destruct, we must find other ways of getting the nutrients our bodies need and that would be from plant life.
There is more I could say but I will stop here. Again, thank you very much for writing this article. The severe animal abuse issue needs to be brought to the forefront in a big way. Hopefully you have been part of that catalyst. Thank you!
Donya Drummond, Oakland
Crying for Sharks
I implore you all who have not seen the film Sharkwater, please watch it. It is very powerful and disturbing. I am deathly afraid of sharks but I actually cried for the sharks in this film. It is brutally honest and touching.
Julie Graham, Walnut Creek
“Stripers in a Court of Law,” Eco Watch, 3/16
Save the Delta
Your article regarding the court case that will determine the status of striped bass protection states that agribusiness and water users are behind the effort to remove or greatly reduce this non-native fish. While that is clearly true, the article draws the false conclusion that the effort is bad and should be denied. Non-native species are a huge problem, and the striped bass is no exception. It is also true that while agribusiness and water users are the biggest reason for the decline in salmon and the health of the delta in general, striped bass are also a reason for declining salmon population. Instead of advocating that we oppose this somewhat stealthy effort by those who are responsible for massive ecological destruction of the delta, we should be supporting it while also strongly supporting efforts to greatly reduce the pumping of water from the delta or its tributaries. What’s needed is to solve all of the delta’s ecological problems, not just some of them.
Jeff Hoffman, San Francisco
Blame the Water Pumps
The Coalition for a Sustainable Delta should be called “The Coalition for an Unsustainable Delta” since the whole purpose of the lawsuit is to keep the delta water pumps flowing for the farmers, etc. Biologists already determined the delta pumps are killing salmon, striped bass, etc. The coalition obviously has enough money to try everything they can to divert blame for declining salmon from the water pumping stations to the striped bass, knowing that their non-native species category leaves the fish vulnerable and an easy target for blame.
Karen Klaczynski, Bay Point
“Dog Park Divides Lake Merritt,” News, 3/16
There is an enormous amount of green, unprogrammed space directly across the street from this proposed area, none of which is available to dog owners. It’s completely off-limits to dogs. To tell area residents that they must leave their neighborhood to give their dog a little exercise is selfish on the part of the opponents.
If you support this park, join our Facebook page (the article mentions the opponents’ page, but not the supporters’): Facebook.com/LakeviewDog.
Paul Vidican, Oakland
Dog Parks are an Asset
When I was looking to buy a house a couple of years ago, the one place I would not consider was Oakland — because it has pretty much zero in terms of off-leash space. For the estimated 40 percent or so of households with dogs, that’s a big deal. Dogs need exercise every day. Not every Oakland resident can live up in the hills near Redwood Regional Park or has the time to drive every day to the nearest off-leash areas.
Dog parks are a community asset, not a liability. They’re not an eyesore, either. There are people without dogs who go down to Point Isabel just because they’re charmed by all the canines having a good time. There’s no other East Bay Regional Park that gets that density of use. Point Isabel gets more than 500,000 dog visits a year — and it looks really good.
Dog parks serve a big portion of the population, and they shouldn’t always be tucked under some dark freeway underpass. (That seems to be implicit in the arguments of people who oppose the Lake Merritt Park. Why should an area that’s attractive be available to dog-walkers?!) Off-leash areas are as valid as the tot lots, sports fields, bike paths, and jogging trails that abound. Way too many city parks are high-cost and single-use. A generous area that allows off-leash dogs tends to be low-cost and multi-use — which is also a good community builder.
Not to harp on Point Isabel, but it’s a good example of that. It’s used by dog-walkers, dog-free walkers, photographers, joggers, picnickers, nature-watchers, etc. It’s the most popular park in the East Bay Regional Park District, it’s a big draw for potential home-buyers in Albany, El Cerrito, and Richmond, and the per-user cost is literally pennies (about seventeen cents per user visit, versus up to two dollars or more at other East Bay regional parks).
Mary Barnsdale, El Cerrito
Green for All
As a dog-owner who lives five blocks from this location and someone who uses this green space regularly to play volleyball, I do not support a dog-run on this highly used gateway to Grand Lake. There are two other fenced dog parks within two miles (Grove Shafter and Mosswood) that are fully functional and underutilized. We have little unprogrammed green space left in Oakland. Let’s hold on to it for all Oaklanders, not just dog-owners. This is a community gem.
Mary Stelletello, Oakland
Bring On Density
Density is a good thing. People — and dogs — are very adaptable and will figure out how to make use of the available space. The more activity you see, the more you want to be active. So bring on the dogs, the soccer players, the sun seekers, the layabouts, the yogis, the drum circles, the runners, the walkers, the bench sitters, the baby strollers, etc.
Terence Kissack, Oakland
Too Many Dog Parks
I have never seen so many dog parks in my life before moving to the East Bay.
Even regular parks intended for human recreation become off-leash dog parks. This practice has seriously impacted my enjoyment of recreational parks where I have played with my (leashed) rabbit. I’ve had to grab off-leash dogs who were in a public park located in a city with leash laws! I do not particularly dislike dogs, but I don’t think every public green space should be reserved for dog owners who allow their dogs to run around unsupervised to defecate everywhere and potentially injure people or small animals. I like that there are so many designated dog parks in this area. I just wish there were more recreation areas that haven’t been taken over by canines.
Regarding the proposed dog park near Lake Merritt, the only thing that I can gather is that dog owners want a currently vacant and grassy field to be a dog park and other people have not proposed anything for the space. I feel that the close proximity to major streets makes this a poor location for a dog park. I don’t even want to know how many dogs would get hit by cars while their owners weren’t paying attention. Sure, a fence could be put up, but that would create a sense of exclusion and subtract from the natural beauty of the area.
I do think that it would be of benefit to the city to better utilize this space. I think that turning it into something that could make a profit would be the best for Oakland. For example, they could make the space available for community gardens. A small fee could be charged per space and it would also become a place for members of the community to relax and meet one another. Once people start thinking outside of the dog park box, they will realize that there are endless possibilities for a grassy field.
Jayde Fantastic, El Cerrito
Location Location Location
I think a better location for a dog park would be the part of Lake Merritt park that has Bellevue Avenue marking the west, south, and east borders, and Grand Avenue as the north border. I see a grassy court in the general area. The dog park would be north of that. This location would have easy access and it wouldn’t impinge on the retail area. Also it would be nice due to the existing trees. I’ve been to some dog parks that are completely unshaded and they are uncomfortable in summer.
Jen Jameson, Alameda
“Trekking the Med,” Lectures & Lit, 3/16
Joel Stratte-McClure has a great gift for meeting local people and asking the right questions. I traveled with him in Burma; his solitary meanderings and the reports he brought back deepened the experience for all the rest of us. I value both his insights and his company — and look forward to reading anything he writes.
Dwight Clark, Palo Alto
Can’t We Get Along?
I have been thinking a lot about the March 15 letters regarding hipsters and Fruitvale and tensions, and what I come to every time is that we are fighting amongst ourselves. We live in an amazing area in which to meet each other. Let our intention be to always do so in respect. I recently saw a woman’s shirt that read, “There is only one race. It’s human. Everything else is culture.” Let’s meet each other.
Molly Batchelder, Oakland
In our March 16 food review, we got the song titles wrong for The Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder. They are “I Want You Back” and “Ngiculela — Es Una Historia — I am Singing,” respectively.
“Dog Park Divides Lake Merritt,” News, 3/16
A Big Mistake
I have lived in Oakland for many years and will be doing so again very soon. I live in San Francisco now, and have worked on the dog/parks issue here, both on city land and in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Unleashed dogs have created huge problems here: for the natural environment and species that live there, for other park users, and even for those with leashed dogs. A fenced area in an ecologically denuded park, such as Delores Park in San Francisco, would be a great improvement over allowing dogs to cause havoc in natural areas without any physical barriers, as they are allowed to do now in far too many areas on this side of the bay.
However, since off-leash dogs are currently prohibited from Lake Merritt, it would be a huge mistake to begin allowing them under any circumstances. What should be done is to fence areas where dogs are currently allowed off-leash, and to completely remove them from natural areas like the East Bay regional parks, where they chase and harass wildlife and dig up plants. Even the mere presence of a dog can cause harmful stress to wildlife, and these unnatural, non-native animals have no place in natural areas.
What would be a good solution for the West Bay due to the harmful proliferation of off-leash dogs would be a foot-in-the-door for dog advocates to destroy even more parkland in the East Bay. There is no problem in Lake Merritt with off-leash dogs, and nixing this bad idea would keep it that way.
Jeff Hoffman, San Francisco
The Demise of Kitty’s,” News, 3/9
Meet at Kitty’s
It is indeed sad for the fate of Kitty’s cafe, bar, lounge, and whatever you want to call that cool place. The location of that business is at the edge of northeast Emeryville, just next to Berkeley’s southwest satellite police station.
Its location is awkward in terms of who controls what, as it’s quite a distance from the Emeryville police headquarters, which has jurisdiction over Kitty’s, and closer to the Berkeley Police who is outside of its jurisdiction boundary.
Kitty’s operation is the least controlled in terms of control efficiency from assistance distance coverage.
The next door Berkeley Police Station is off limits from surveillance.
As it turns out, it is not the police that will prevent the disturbance emanating from Kitty’s but rather its clientele patronizing Kitty’s atmosphere.
It is fun, with great music, and as a flirting place where willing parties are able to score a date.
It creates a place of seduction, challenge with territory-holding and invasion.
The dogs get there! The “True Grit,” too!
What Kitty’s needs is not an image of dive red-lighting cabaret where patrons shove and throw chairs at each other, but rather a place where young revelers can enjoy a late meal similar to the Hof-Brau at the Oaks’ gambling place.
Like Denny’s, it’s a great location, off the freeway at Shellmound and Ashby exit, the Canal Zone!
Would the city council reconsider the re-opening under a reworked policy of Kitty’s night gourmet?
The city council should patronize and attend informal meetings there and enjoy its unique setup.
Andre Carpiaux, Emeryville
“Hate Man,” Feature, 3/2
What Has He Accomplished?
What a strange story of a man who had it all to be normal. He had an upbringing that was fortunate and a choice intellectual environment to end up in People’s Park. But to rationalize it’s a way of saving on living accommodation and to mucho free meal around town scavenging on pot luck!
He screwed himself by being a dope fiend plus all the other things ordinary people do not brag about.
Two ex-wives and three kids and you guys come up to glorify that dude because he is one of your kind of people, news reporter. Is it what you identify yourself from the germinal entity of communication by words? So much for the lip service but this is the kind of guys that hang as “library rats” which must feed on something, and at his age S.S.I. provides for his smokes, illegal or not. Has he accomplished anything in his life, like any sample of his reporting that one could read by looking at that depraved victim-hood of this society? Would he call himself parasite Ph.D?
This is not a role model for any reader of whatever belief.
Andre Carpiaux, Emeryville