Anti-graft campaign is good news for sharks

Updated: 2013-09-02 09:07

(China Daily)

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Conservationists have attributed the dwindling demand for shark fins in China to the country's crackdown on corruption, which has led to a decline in lavish banquets, at which shark fin soup is often served.

"We are seeing a reduction in demand from the Chinese mainland. Hong Kong is also showing a significant decline in consumption," Angelo Villagomez, a shark specialist with the US-based conservation group The Pew Charitable Trusts, said on Sunday.

Villagomez was in the Marshall Islands to discuss shark sanctuaries with leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum, the annual summit of Pacific heads of state.

He said the decline in demand for shark fins over the past year was not directly linked to increasing shark protection by Pacific island governments. Instead, it was related to the Chinese leadership's crackdown on graft and its opposition to extravagance.

"It's not to do with conservation. It's related to a Chinese government anti-graft crackdown, which has cut back on dinners where shark fin soup was featured on the menu," Villagomez said.

"The culture is (also) changing in Asia among younger people. They aren't eating shark fin soup as much."

The State Council announced in July 2012 that the country would ban shark fin at government banquets.

The central leadership of the Communist Party of China also launched a campaign within the Party in December, vowing to target extravagance and waste. They also demand austerity from the Party and military officials as a means to curb graft.

Consumption of shark fins dropped by 70 percent since the end of last year, ministry of commerce data showed.

On Hong Kong's Dried Seafood Street, shopkeeper Leung Wing-chiu said sales were down 20 percent at a time when increased ethical awareness over shark fins and rising rents are pressuring business.

Wang Xue, from a Beijing-based environmental NGO responsible for the "China Zero Shark Fin" project, said on Sunday that it has found restaurants in general are experiencing a significant downturn in sales of shark fins.

According to Wang, before the anti-graft campaign, at least 100 million yuan ($16 million) was spent on the consumption of shark fins in Beijing, and official and business banquets were the major occasions for shark fin consumption.

Anti-graft campaign is good news for sharks

Basketball star Yao Ming attends a ceremony in Shanghai on Thursday to launch a campaign urging people to stop eating shark fin soup. [Photo by Gao Erqiang/China Daily]

It was reported in September 2012 that daily consumption of shark fins in Beijing was about 7,500 kilograms and the price for a bowl of shark fin soup could reach 1,800 yuan.

"Less demand will lead to less poaching," she said. "We wish to see the declining demand last a long time, instead of being a short-period response to government policy."

"It needs a transformation of ideas in people's minds."

High-profile Chinese celebrities, including former NBA star Yao Ming, entrepreneur Wang Shi and TV host Yang Lan, have pledged not to eat shark fin, and some hotels have banned it, including major Asian chains Peninsula Hotels and the Shangri-La Hotel Group. [Shark fin soup is cruel: Yao Ming]

China Daily-AFP