Volume of shark fin served in Hong Kong restaurants halved last year: WWF survey

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 November, 2014, 6:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 November, 2014, 8:47am

Conservationists have criticised banquet caterers for continuing to offer shark fin after a survey found demand for the controversial delicacy had fallen by nearly half over the course of a year.

The conservation body WWF said almost all caterers that responded to its first survey of shark fin consumption in the city still offered the menu item despite a declining trend in other venues, especially hotels and clubhouses.

"Many of them are still providing shark fin on their menus because the customers want it," WWF senior programme officer Tracy Tsang Chui-chi said. "They are afraid of being criticised if they refuse to provide the traditional dish."

Tsang was speaking as the organisation presented the results of its survey of restaurants, hotels, clubhouses and caterers, conducted from April to September, which drew 154 responses including 85 to questionnaires and the rest through direct interviews.

She said only 35 responded to the "sensitive" question of shark fin consumption.

These reported that their combined volume had dropped to 161kg last year from 306kg in the previous year.

Tsang said the decline was in line with the drop in shark fin imported to Hong Kong, which fell to 5,400 tonnes last year from around 8,200 tonnes in 2012.

She said 70 per cent of hotels and clubhouses polled had stopped serving shark fin, though many restaurants still did, as well as 97 per cent of caterers. Some restaurants told her that they were not striking it from their menus because their competitors were still selling it.

She urged the restaurants to gradually remove the item from their menus and to use alternative seafood such as abalone and sea cucumbers, if a total ban could not be achieved at once.

The survey also found that shark fin was often served during birthday banquets in Chinese restaurants, and at wedding banquets in clubhouses and hotels. But many hotels, including the Grand Hyatt, had already taken it off their menus.

The Hyatt's executive sous chef Raymond Cheung Muk-kam said revenue fell by some 10 per cent when the hotel stopped selling shark fin in 2012, but business picked up again later.

"Some customers reacted strongly when they heard the news, as if something was missing," he said. "But their minds have changed and [they] are more aware of the environment."

WWF said 73 million sharks were killed each year to supply the trade, and that Hong Kong represented 50 per cent of the world's market. Imports of fins were threatening the survival of several shark species, 74 of which faced extinction, it added.

While the sale of shark fin is not illegal in Hong Kong, the government last year banned its consumption at official functions, following a similar ban on the mainland.