Somewhere deep in the Pacific Ocean, seventy million reef sharks are saying thank you in their own sharky language.
A number of Chinese luxury hotels and popular restaurants have decided to take shark fin soup off the menu to help keep the species from becoming extinct. The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, parent company of The Peninsula Hotels chain, said that it will stop serving shark fin on Jan 1 at all of its eight hotels globally, including one in Shanghai, one in Beijing and one in Hong Kong.
The culinary industry’s move has been lauded by animal protection organizations, China Daily reported on Monday.
WildAid, an animal conservation organization that has pursued a shark protection campaign for more than a decade, said in a newsletter that the ban on shark fins “exemplifies how businesses can become leaders in conservation, dissuading people from purchasing wildlife products and spreading awareness of the detrimental effects of the illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade.”
According to WildAid, up to 73 million sharks are killed every year to meet the increasing demand for shark fin soup. As a result, about one-third of the open-ocean shark species are threatened with extinction, with certain species experiencing a 99% population decline.
When their fins are hacked off, sharks are often still alive. The sharks, whose meat is not considered as valuable as their fins, are thrown back into the water to drown or bleed to death.
That doesn’t faze the owner of Shark’s Fin City, a dried fin wholesaler in Hong Kong. Kwong Hung-Kwan told the China Daily that there are only a few people who knew the truth about sharks, and he was one of them. He said his industry was being targeted by an anti-Chinese conspiracy led by “Western” environmental groups like Greenpeace. Talk of a dramatic decline in shark populations around the world is rubbish, he said, dismissing research showing an eight-fold jump in threatened shark species since 2000.
“Shark fins represent our Chinese tradition. It used to be served only to royalty and is, even now, a very luxurious cuisine from the deep sea,” Kwong said at his store in Hong Kong’s Des Voeux Road area.
The western end of Des Voeux Road and nearby Queen’s Road West, not far from the central business district, are a hive of musty shops selling a vast array of dried food from mushrooms to seahorses. It is the center of the global shark fin trade, with about 10,000 tons of dried fins imported every year, according to environmental group WWF. That’s about half of the world’s total fin harvest.