China plans banquet ban on shark fin

Story highlights

  • China plans ban on shark fin being served at official banquets
  • The ban could take up to three years to implement
  • Move follows proposal made at National People's Congress in March
  • Around 73 million sharks killed for their fins each year

China is planning to ban shark fin soup from being served at official banquets, in a sign the country may be losing its taste for the expensive delicacy.

According to Chinese media, the Government Office Administration of the State Council said the ban could take up to three years to implement and would help cut the cost of sometimes lavish banquets held for state functions.

The move followed a proposal made during the National People's Congress in March this year.

Bertha Lo of the campaign group Hong Kong Shark Foundation said the move could potentially reduce the amount of sharks killed given that China is the biggest consumer of shark fin products.

"I think it will have an impact," she said. "The government in China is powerful and if it takes the lead on this issue, I don't see why others shouldn't follow suit."

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Between 26 million and 73 million sharks are estimated to be killed each year, according to a 2006 academic study quoted on the website of Lo's group. Their carcasses are usually discarded and campaigners say the practice is wasteful and cruel.

The World Wildlife Fund says that 181 species of shark are under threat, up from 15 in 1996.

Shark's fin soup is widely served in restaurants in Chinese communities worldwide and is a dish often served at weddings to mark the importance of the occasion and impress the couple's extended families and friends.

But the custom has become less popular among a younger generation of diners, who are more environmentally conscious, says Lo.

Last year, the operator of the high-end Peninsula hotel chain said it would remove shark fin products from its menus and Shangri-la Hotels made a similar move this year.

Shark fins off the menu at top hotel

In Beijing, the five-star Swissotel has also stopped serving shark fin, according to the China Daily.

Outside Asia, legislation banning shark fin has been introduced in five U.S. states including California, which this month also banned the French duck liver delicacy foie gras on the grounds of cruelty.

In China, the campaign against shark fin products has gained steam following pledges by celebrities, such as former NBA star Yao Ming, not to eat the delicacy.