Tuesday, July 03, 2012

China to ban shark fin soup from official banquets

China is to ban shark fin soup from being served at official banquets, according to state run media. But while the news was cautiously welcomed by animal welfare organizations, the regulations may be slow in coming into force.

Proposed ban

China's Government Offices Administration of the State Council (GOASC) is said to be drawing up guidelines concerning the serving shark fins at official receptions. It is expected the GOASC will instruct all levels of government agencies to stop serving the delicacy at events. But the new rules are unlikely to come out for at least one to three years, Xinhua News Agency reported.

The move was proposed at the 'two sessions' National People's Congress this year, but it may take time to hammer out the details, another report in the Global Times said.

Extinction threats & health risks

Some 70 to 100 million sharks are killed for only their fins every year, and 44 species of shark have been listed in China as endangered or facing extinction, according to state media. Meanwhile the World Wildlife Fund says that 181 species of shark are under threat, up from 15 in 1996.

But there is more than just the risk of wiping out a species. Guo Guangchang, an NPC deputy who wants shark fin banned from banquets, believes it may even harm human health. "It's difficult for the human body to absorb the nutrient in shark fin, plus there are excessive levels of lead and mercury in it," Guo says. Bertha Lo of the campaign group Hong Kong Shark Foundation said the move could potentially reduce the amount of sharks killed.

Existing bans

China is the biggest consumer of shark fin products and the well known shark fin soup features on the menu of many luxury restaurants. 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. But with the highly prized product still widely served in restaurants in Chinese communities worldwide it may be a while off before there is a total ban [CNN]. 

In the United States, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands have banned the sale and possession of shark fins, effectively eliminating the availability of the soup. Some municipalities in Canada have also outlawed the product. But shark fin products are still readily available elsewhere including Britain where Chinese speciality stores such as Hoo Hing offer shark fin for around £42 [$65] for 100 grams.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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