Shark fin soup, a symbol of wealth and social status across China, is banned at state banquets. The decision, carried out by the central government, has been widely welcomed by environmentalists. From the New York Times:
“This is a very positive step forward,” said Andy Cornish, director of conservation at W.W.F. 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.” He said the move would send an important signal to consumers in China, the largest market for the fins.
Retailers in Hong Kong, the main hub for the international trade in the fins, charge more than 2,000 Hong Kong dollars, or $260, per catty, a traditional weight measure commonly used in markets here. Equal to just over one pound, one catty makes about 10 portions of soup, which works out to $26 a portion.
Rapid economic growth across Asia in recent years has catapulted millions into the ranks of those who can now afford the dish.
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong — another big shark fin soup market — “several high-end restaurants and hotels have recently taken shark fin off the menu in response to shifting public awareness in the city”. However, it remains unclear if the Hong Kong government will follow Beijing’s decision to ban the dish at official banquets. From New York Times:
“The Hong Kong government has repeatedly dodged the question of implementing a banqueting ban on shark fin soup, saying that it sees no need for such guidelines,” said Mr. Cornish of W.W.F. “We strongly hope that the new administration in Hong Kong government will shortly follow suit.”
Read more about shark protection in China via CDT.