Take shark fin off official menus

Updated: 2012-03-05 07:58

By Jin Zhu and Gao Changxin (China Daily)

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Ban would help save species from extinction

BEIJING - A National People's Congress deputy has called on the central government to take shark fin off the menu at official banquets to help save the lives of up to 100 millions sharks slaughtered every year.

"I suggest the central government bans the consumption of shark fin at banquets at all levels, as part of efforts to save the species from extinction," said Guo Guangchang, an NPC deputy from Shanghai and chairman of Fosun International Ltd, one of China's largest conglomerates.

Take shark fin off official menus

A restaurant owner shows raw shark fin served in his restaurant in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, on Dec 29, 2011. He declared on Dec 27 on his micro blog that he would cease serving shark fin in his restaurant. And due to his huge stock of shark fin, he is inviting customers to try it for free. [Zhang Yun / China News Service]

The campaign was initiated last year by basketball legend Yao Ming, who said "there is no reasonable explanation for the cruelty".

Many restaurants and hotels have already followed suit and taken shark fin off their menus.

Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, which owns The Peninsula Hotels, has stopped serving the dish since Jan 1, saying its decision was made "in recognition of the threat facing the global shark population".

Swissotel Beijing, a five-star hotel, stopped serving shark fin last November.

Guo proposed that State Council draft the world's first national regulation on consumption of shark fin.

Shark fin soup, considered a delicacy, is widely served at top-class restaurants throughout China.

To meet this demand, between 70 and 100 million sharks are slaughtered annually for their fins, putting the species at grave risk of extinction, Guo said.

His proposed regulation would ban government and military agencies from consuming shark fin at official banquets. And the government should do more to let the public know that shark fins are not nutritious but contain high levels of lead and mercury, he added.

Li Jing, a 49-year-old office clerk in Shenzhen, said she supported Guo's proposal. "It is right that public servants should take the lead in stopping eating shark fin," she said.

However, Li Yue, a Shanghai-based salesman, disagreed. "Eating shark fin is a custom in China. I don't see so much of a difference between sharks and other fish, they are all animals. Foreigners must have their special dining customs too," he said.

According to WildAid, a wild animal conservation organization that has pursued a shark protection campaign for more than a decade, up to 73 million sharks are killed annually to make sharks fin soup.

In his proposal, Guo said the global trade in shark fins has grown to 14,000 tons from less than 4,000 tons over the past 30 years. Among those, over 95 percent is consumed in China.

After the fins are cut off, the sharks are often thrown back into the ocean, where they are condemned to a slow death due to their diminished speed and maneuverability.

So far, legislation to ban the consumption of shark fin has been introduced in some parts of Canada and the United States, including Toronto, California and Oregon.