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Conservation

Shark fin will be gone from menus by 2020, Hong Kong’s largest restaurant chain Maxim’s says

Bowing to pressure from wildlife groups and after the Post revealed how shark fin was still being offered on under-the-counter menu, popular restaurant chain vows to halt sales by January 1, 2020

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 September, 2018, 10:19pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 September, 2018, 1:33am

Hong Kong’s biggest restaurant chain, Maxim’s, has bowed to pressure from wildlife groups and agreed to impose a total ban on shark fin dishes in all its outlets – but not until 2020.

The move comes after the South China Morning Post revealed in June how the chain was continuing to offer shark fin on under-the-counter menus called “The Premium” despite claiming it had removed shark fin from all à la carte menus by the end of 2017.

Maxim’s told the Post in a statement on Thursday that it would stop serving the dish altogether in all of its restaurants from January 1, 2020.

“Until that point, shark fin dishes will only be provided upon request and to fulfil advance booking commitments,” the statement said.

The statement said Maxim’s had taken steps to reduce the availability of shark fin since 2010 and that there had been a 70 per cent fall in consumption of shark fin in its outlets over the past seven years.

It added: “We are committed to balancing our ever-evolving customers’ needs and reducing the impact of our business on the environment.”

Conservation groups who for years have been calling on Maxim’s to stop selling shark fin, hailed on Thursday night the ban as a major step towards making Hong Kong shark fin-free but questioned why the restaurant chain would not stop selling the dish immediately.

Hong Kong restaurant chains named and shamed over shark fin sale

Alex Hofford, wildlife campaigner for WildAid Hong Kong, whose investigators discovered the existence of the “secret” shark fin menus featured in the Post article in June, said: “This is great news for the sharks.

“As Hong Kong’s largest restaurant chain, Maxim’s commitment will bring much needed relief to the global problem of overfishing, and especially for blue sharks – the type of shark served in Maxim’s restaurants in Hong Kong.

“However, we are concerned that Maxim’s has said that it will continue to offer shark fin upon request until 2020. This continued practice is harmful and unnecessary and should be discontinued immediately.”

Hofford added that he hoped other major Hong Kong catering groups, including the Paramount Catering Group, the Lei Garden Restaurant Group, and Fulum Group Limited, would follow Maxim’s example and stop serving shark fin.

Tracy Tsang, manager of WWF-Hong Kong’s Footprint programme, welcomed the ban but said: “WWF urges Maxim’s to stop selling shark fin on request immediately and set the standard for Chinese caterers to follow.

“The demand for fins in Asia is the primary driver of unsustainable shark fishing and currently 100 per cent of shark fins in Hong Kong come from unsustainable or untraceable sources.”

Hong Kong shark fin imports ‘halved since 2007’, thanks to tighter regulations and shipping bans

Hong Kong accounted for about 40 per cent of the global shark fin trade, Tsang said, but there had been no prosecutions for illegally sourced or traded shark fin products between 2014 and 2017 despite 23 seizures of fins.

Maxim’s was accused by WildAid in June of “deceiving the Hong Kong public” into believing it had completely phased out shark fin with its under-the-counter menus policy.

Demand for the dish has dropped sharply in Hong Kong in recent years with 70 per cent of respondents to a 2015 survey saying they had stopped eating shark fin or reduced consumption and 92 per cent saying they were happy to attend a banquet with no shark fin.