A Ban on Sharks fin soup in China

Hong Kong

China said Tuesday that it will prohibit official banquets from serving shark fin soup, a pricey and popular delicacy blamed for a sharp decline in global shark populations.

The ban, reported by Xinhua, the state-run news agency, could take as long as three years to take effect, and it remains unclear how widely it will be implemented across a sprawling nation where orders issued by Beijing are often shrugged off by officials in far-away regions and provinces.

Still, the decision to stop serving shark fin soup at official functions was welcomed by environmental campaigners. Experts have long cautioned that soaring demand for shark fin soup over the past two decades has imperiled shark populations around the globe.

Decision praised

“This is a very positive step forward,” said Andy Cornish, director of conservation at the World Wildlife Fund in Hong Kong. “It is the first time that the Chinese central government has expressed a decision to phase out shark fin from banquets funded by taxpayers’ money.”

Cornish said the move will send an important signal to consumers in China, the largest market for the fins.

Stan Shea, a project coordinator in Hong Kong at Bloom Association, a marine conservation organization, likewise welcomed the policy change, saying calling it a “big step” to help shark populations.

The soup, brewed from dried shark fins, is largely flavorless and slithery but is considered a status symbol. Many in China deem it a must-serve at the lavish, multicourse banquets to celebrate weddings, anniversaries, and corporate and state events.

Retailers in Hong Kong, the main hub for the international trade in the fins, charge more than $260 per catty, a traditional weight measure commonly used in markets. Equal to just over one pound, one catty makes about 10 portions of soup, which works out to $26 a portion.

More can afford dish

Still, rapid economic growth across Asia in recent years has catapulted millions into the ranks of those who can now afford the dish.

The Hong Kong government has so far resisted calls from shark conservationists to curtail the trade or consumption of shark fins.

Distribution and sale of shark fin products were outlawed in California after a roiling debate that accompanied passage last year of AB376 by Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino. The ban was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown and went into effect on Jan. 1. But the sale and use of fins already in California – one of the largest markets in the world for such products – is allowed until July 1, 2013, and the soup remains on sale in a few San Francisco venues as a result of a loophole in the law that is being challenged in the courts.

Also in January, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act, which protects most shark species from being harvested for their fins and prohibits cutting fins off a shark at sea. Federal law allows shark fin suppliers to sell the product if the fin was obtained legally, which requires keeping the carcass intact.

San Fancisco Chronicle – 4th July 2012


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: