. Earth Science News .

Asia loses its taste for shark fin
by Staff Writers
Singapore (AFP) Jan 22, 2012

As Asia's ethnic Chinese sit down for lavish banquets to usher in the Lunar New Year, a delicacy long considered a must at celebratory meals is fast disappearing from menus and dinner tables.

A growing number of shops, restaurants and hotels have in the past few months given up selling shark fin, which in Asia is usually eaten in soup, throwing a lifeline to the marine predator that activists say is long overdue.

"Yes, we do see an increasing number of locals and international businesses saying no to shark's fin," said Elaine Tan, chief executive for environmental group WWF in Singapore.

"This change in attitude could be due to an increasing awareness of the plight of sharks as well as the result of many shark campaigns worldwide," she told AFP.

About 73 million sharks are killed every year, according to WWF, and more than 180 shark species were considered threatened in 2010, compared to only 15 in 1996.

Many are slain for their fins, considered by the Chinese to be a delicacy and costing hundreds of dollars per kilo.

Soup made from the fins is a pricey yet common staple at festive occasions such as the Lunar New Year and weddings in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and countries with large ethnic Chinese populations such as Singapore.

One well-known shark-fin soup restaurant in Singapore sells the dish at Sg$20 ($16) per diner, but it can cost many times that.

"We are concerned about the environment and we have a strong corporate responsibility," said Maria Kuhn, director of corporate communications of Shangri-La's international operations.

The global luxury hotelier took shark fin off its menu on January 17, in a major boost to the campaign.

"The younger generation has specifically been very aware of the issue and been stepping away from using shark fin... In the long term it will be a natural progression anyway."

In Hong Kong -- the top shark-fin trading centre, handling about 50 percent of the global trade -- conservationists lauded Peninsula Hotels group's decision two months ago to similarly ditch the dish.

"We are very happy to see what they have done and we believe the demand for shark-fin consumption in Hong Kong will reduce," Stanley Shea, project coordinator at the Hong Kong marine conservation group Bloom, told AFP.

A survey by Bloom last year showed 78 percent of people in the southern Chinese city now consider it socially acceptable to leave shark-fin soup off the menu for a wedding banquet.

It is a sentiment which is gaining ground in Singapore too.

Alex Teo, 29, said he left shark fin off the menu at his wedding last year despite initial worries that guests might be disappointed.

"We were not sure if people would feel unhappy about it, but seven personal friends who, when they replied about their attendance, asked me if we could not have shark fin, so we went ahead," he said.

"We actually wanted to remove it because we wanted to save sharks," Teo, a banker, told AFP.

Mainland China -- believed to be the world's top consumer of shark fin -- is also seeing a dip in its popularity.

Basketball superstar Yao Ming, who stopped eating shark fin five years ago, added his considerable size to the cause in September by urging others to join him and British entrepreneur Richard Branson in their abstinence.

As public awareness grows in China, there are even moves towards a ban on the trade.

Businessman delegate to the National People's Congress Ding Liguo made the proposal, saying Beijing should lead the way because 95 percent of shark fin is consumed in the mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

TRAFFIC, an international network that monitors the trade in wildlife, said more action from Asian governments was needed.

"We see a clear shift in the public and corporate mindset away from shark-fin consumption and sale," Elizabeth John, an official with TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, told AFP.

"Unfortunately, it's not reflected in decision and policy making except in very few cases."

Hazel Oakley, a representative of Shark Savers Malaysia, which lobbies for a shark-fishing ban, said: "The time for this legislation is now.

"Public opinion has changed... The shark-fin wealthy Chinese market is definitely dying."

Supermarket chains in Singapore have also begun to jump on the bandwagon and WWF's Tan said an initiative encouraging restaurants to provide shark-fin-free menus has gained traction in Singapore and Hong Kong.

More than 100 hotels and restaurants in the two cities are now part of the programme, up from only 12 when it was launched in 2010, Tan said.

But it is not all good news.

Restaurants in Thailand were reporting a surge in shark-fin consumption ahead of the Lunar New Year, while high-end eateries in Malaysia -- where there is a sizable ethnic Chinese population -- are also holding firm.

"The number of people eating shark fin is only increasing, especially during Chinese New Year," said Tiyamon Tiang-ngok, assistant manager at Summer Palace restaurant, at Intercontinental Hotel in Bangkok.

"Our main customers are Chinese Thais. When they dine at our restaurant, they often order our set menu, which includes shark-fin soup."


Related Links
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries


. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Stranded baby seals concern Dutch rescuers
Pieterburen, Netherlands (AFP) Jan 23, 2012
A month ago, a young seal named Marco washed up on a beach on the northern Dutch Frisian island of Ameland, one of a growing number of recently stranded pups that has left his rescuers worried. Cold, hungry and riddled with parasites, Marco was taken to the Zeehondencreche (seal nursery), the country's oldest and largest seal rehabilitation centre on the Dutch north coast. Marco's arriva ... read more

Disaster Communications Terminals Deployed In South Sudan

TEPCO uses camera to survey Fukushima reactor

Disasters cost $366 billion in 2011: UN

Simulating firefighting operations on a PC

Quantum physics enables perfectly secure cloud computing

Dutch court rules in Apple/Samsung fight

RIM to focus more on consumer market: new CEO

Metadynamics technique offers insight into mineral growth and dissolution

Asia loses its taste for shark fin

Stranded baby seals concern Dutch rescuers

Broadcast study of ocean acidification to date helps scientists evaluate effects on marine life

Rich Asians threaten high-value fish: experts

Satellites detect abundance of fresh water in the Arctic

Alaskan farewell to Russian tanker after fuel run

Russian ship leaves after ice-bound Alaska fuel run

US, Russia to conduct joint Antarctica inspection

Study shines light on ways to cut costs for greenhouse growers

Farming is key to meeting environmental challenge: FAO chief

Sweeten up your profits with the right hybrid

Science to help rice growers affected by Japan's tsunami

Waiting for Death Valley's Big Bang

Tropical cyclone hits Mozambique, 12 dead: report

Japan and New Zealand were hit hardest by earthquakes

New floods hit northeastern Australia

Former colonial soldiers in Mozambique hope for pensions

Nigeria police fire tear gas at Lagos protest

Ethiopia: Thousands driven out in land grab

Sudan rebels say key govt outpost taken

The price of your soul: How the brain decides whether to 'sell out'

Penn Researchers Help Solve Questions About Ethiopians' High-Altitude Adaptations

Babies with three parents a possibility

Sitting pretty: bum's the word in Japan security


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement