Jan 18

A Chinese hotel group is aiding efforts to conserve dwindling shark stocks with its announcement that it will no longer serve shark fin soup in its establishments.

Smooth hammerhead shark image

Smooth hammerhead sharks are targeted by the shark fin soup industry

Shark Shangri-La

Shark fin soup is a delicacy in China, fetching anywhere between £48 and £100 per bowl depending on the species in question. This traditional dish comes at a high cost to the world’s oceans, however, with an estimated 26 million to 73 million sharks killed each year for the shark fin soup industry. Almost a third of these are consumed at banquets during the Chinese new year period.

Yet as China prepares to welcome in the Year of the Dragon, hotel group Shangri-La has announced that it will remove shark fin soup from its restaurants. This decision will affect all 72 of the group’s hotels, marking a big step towards the conservation of the ocean’s top predators.

Oceanic whitetip shark image

The oceanic whitetip shark is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List

Saying No

Hong Kong is at the centre of the shark fin trade, and an important turning point for shark conservation was reached in November 2011 when the Peninsula hotel became the first traditional hotel in the region to stop serving shark fin soup. Conservation efforts have been further boosted by basketball star and WildAid international ambassador Yao Ming speaking out against the delicacy.

Following the Peninsula hotel’s decision, 112 companies signed up to a ‘Say No’ initiative, vowing to remove shark fin soup from corporate banquets.

Stanley Shea, of Hong Kong-based NGO Bloom Association, is pleased with the progress, but highlights that further steps are needed in order to preserve the marine environment, “We are seeing announcements one by one, but it is not enough just to stop serving shark fin. Hotels also need to put in place public policies on sustainable seafood sourcing.”

Shark dorsal fin removal image

Up to 73 million sharks are killed every year for the shark fin trade

A responsibility to sustainability

The Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts chain is taking its contribution to marine conservation one step further, and has recently unveiled a ‘sustainable seafood policy’, which commits the company to ensuring that it phases out the use of other threatened marine species such as bluefin tuna and Chilean sea bass.

Conservationists are welcoming this move as a positive sign that some major corporations are beginning to embrace the idea of sustainability.

This is very significant,” says Bertha Lo of the Hong Kong Shark Foundation. “Two leading hotel groups have now sent a very strong message to the food and beverage industry and the wedding industry. I don’t see why others don’t follow suit.”

Great hammerhead shark image

The great hammerhead shark is also targeted by the shark fin soup industry

Next steps

Despite these positive moves, much remains to be done for marine conservation. A recent survey of 64 of Hong Kong’s leading hotels found that at least one threatened marine species was found on 98% of the menus. Almost all of these hotels served shark fin soup, and only a minimal number had adopted a policy on the sustainable sourcing of seafood.

The Bloom Association has conducted surveys which suggest that 88% of consumers want the authorities to take action to prevent the sale of products which involve killing threatened species. Conservationists are now calling for an increase in social responsibility programmes within the corporate sector.

Read more on this story at The Guardian – Shangri-La hotels take shark fin soup off the menu.

View photos and videos of shark species on ARKive.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

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