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Jaws: A pricey snack
Jaws: A pricey snack
Shark fins
Banned in: The U.S.

Shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy, was once an indulgence only the very rich could afford. However, as Asian economies have grown, more people are serving the soup at weddings, banquets, and other celebrations.

While expensive - one bowl in the U.S. might cost as much as $100 - shark fin soup is not illegal. However, "shark finning"- cutting the fins off a shark and then dumping the carcass back into the ocean - is prohibited in U.S. waters. Fishermen covet shark fins for their high market price, but other shark meat has little value; in addition, the fins, dried in the sun, are easy to transport, while whole sharks are not.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Shark Finning Prohibition Act, enacted in 2000, fins can only comprise 5% of a fisherman's total shark haul; the Coast Guard, NOAA, and state officials enforce this rule at sea and at the docks. Most shark fins are exported to Hong Kong and other Asian cities, although some make their way to American Chinatowns or Asian specialty markets. Prized for its medicinal properties, shark's fin soup is actually fairly simple: chicken stock, mushrooms, scallions, some spices, and the fin itself, its cartilaginous flesh boiled until tender.

Dying to try it for yourself? Head to Stella! restaurant in New Orleans, where it's a signature ingredient.

NEXT: A taxing plan to slim down San Francisco

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LAST UPDATE: Nov 18 2009 | 12:10 PM ET
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