Asia’s oldest hotel company is the latest to remove shark from their menus.
The Peninsula Hotels chain has joined the movement to stop serving shark fin products – a dish which has long been considered a delicacy on traditional Chinese celebratory menus.
An incredible 73 million sharks are killed each year in a process where fishermen slice the fins off live sharks and dump their bodies back into the ocean. The effects on the underwater ecosystems are devastating. Remove the top ocean predator and the delicate balance of marine life is damaged also.
Sharks are slow to reach reproductive maturity and birth small litters. Coupled this with overfishing and the populations worldwide are in rapid decline.
The number of surviving sharks is now so low that if finning continues at the current rate it is expected they will be extinct in under 30 years.
Shark finning backlash
The backlash against the fishing for sharks has been gaining momentum over the last few years. Shark finning has been banned in Oregon, Washington and even Taiwan — the first Chinese country to introduce the legislation. In California a bill was passed in October to banning the sale, trade and possession of shark fins and as the largest market for shark-fin soup outside Asia it was considered a huge achievement.
In China, until the 1970s shark fin soup was a symbol of prestige and eaten only by the wealthy. With the rise of mass affluence and more sophisticated fishing techniques eating shark became more affordable and quickly become a staple and special dish to eat at weddings.
As Rachel Vickerstaff from the Hong Kong Shark Foundation said: “What’s really sad is that sharks were on earth 200,000 – 400,000 years before the dinosaurs. They have survived three massive extinctions and yet in 30 years they cannot survive a bowl of soup.”
Research conducted by groups such as the Hong Kong Shark Foundation and hotels such as The Peninsula have found the majority of young Chinese think it acceptable not to serve shark fin soup. People are not actually asking for it but it is still included as a standard feature on menus at weddings. Younger consumers are ambivalent about it but the older generations are driving it at the planning of weddings and events.
“By removing shark fin from our menus, we hope that our decision can contribute to preserving the marine ecosystem for the world’s future generations,” said the group’s chief executive officer, Clement Kwok. ‘We hope our decision will inspire other hospitality companies to do the same and that our industry will play a role in helping to preserve the bio-diversity of our oceans.”
Hong Kong Shark Foundation: www.hksharkfoundation.org
Peninsula Hong Kong: www.peninsula.com
Have you ever eaten shark fin soup? Where were you? What other ‘delicacies’ we should stop eating?