Shark fins off the menu at top hotel

Story highlights

  • Luxury hotel chain bans shark's find products
  • Peninsula Hotels to impose ban from January
  • 73 million sharks are slaughtered each year for their fins
  • One in three shark species threatened with extinction
Asia's oldest hotel chain has waded into the debate on the slaughter of sharks for their fins by taking the Chinese delicacy off its menus.
From January, diners won't be offered shark's fin products at the luxury Peninsula Hotels chain, due to a decision by its owners, the Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels group.
"By removing shark fin from our menus, we hope that our decision can contribute to preserving the marine ecosystem for the world's future generations," the group's chief executive officer Clement Kwok announced in a brief press statement.
Around 73 million sharks are estimated to be killed each year, taking one in three shark species to the brink of extinction. Their fins are hacked off at sea and the carcass discarded in the water in a practice referred to as "finning."
Peninsula Hotels can be found in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Chicago, Beverley Hills, Tokyo, Bangkok and Manila. One is due to open in Paris in 2013.
Shark's fin is only offered in its Asian restaurants, mostly on banquet menus for weddings and large business meetings.
The group says its decision is not based on consultation with guests, but since last April the chain has been offering banquet clients an alternative menu, substituting shark's fin soup with another fish soup.
The uptake has been "quite good," according to group spokeswoman Irene Lau.
However, she couldn't say whether the guests' decision was motivated by a desire to save the shark, or by the hotel's offer of one night's free accommodation if they took the second option.
"I think it's actually both," she said.
Shark's fin is a popular dish among Chinese diners who appreciate its texture, if not its flavor, in soup.
Once a delicacy favored by emperors, shark fin is often eaten at weddings to mark the importance of the occasion and impress the couple's extended families and friends.
However, Lau says the hotel group has noticed a generational split between diners who want the specialty seafood and those prepared to do without.
"What we've found is that in recent years the younger generation, the couples who are ge