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Hong Kongers back weddings without shark fin soup

by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) April 12, 2011
Almost 80 percent of Hong Kongers now consider it socially acceptable to leave shark fin soup off the menu for a wedding banquet, a survey by a shark conservation group said Tuesday.

Some 78 percent in the south Chinese financial hub believe it is allowable not to offer the coveted fins at a wedding, a survey by the nonprofit group BLOOM said -- a small sign of hope in efforts to protect the endangered fish.

But the survey also showed more than 70 percent of people in Hong Kong consumed shark fin soup, viewed by many Asians as a rare delicacy and traditionally served at wedding feasts, at least once a year.

"Our research shows that, whilst tradition is important to Hong Kong people, in reality shark fin soup won't be much missed from wedding banquets," Claire Nouvian, founder and president of BLOOM, said in a statement.

The survey, which interviewed 1,000 people between 2009 and 2010, found about two-thirds of interviewees said they were uncomfortable with eating endangered fish, while 85 percent supported banning shark fin imports -- despite the majority of respondents having eaten the soup.

Almost all shark fin soup, or 87 percent, was consumed as part of a set menu rather than ordered individually, the survey found.

Scientists blame the practice of shark-finning -- slicing off the fins of live animals and then throwing them back in the water to die -- for a worldwide collapse in shark populations.

Hong Kong was the largest importer of shark fin globally in 2007, buying about 277 million US dollars' worth of fins, according to UN figures. One kilogram (2.2 pounds) from certain species can sell for 120 US dollars or more in the city.

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