A movement of conservationists, high profile chefs, luxury hotels and celebrities are working to raise the awareness of the overfishing of sharks for fin soup and the danger to the world marine ecosystem
Shangri-La Hotels are the next major hotel chain to announce they are to cease serving shark fin in all of its operated restaurants as well as accepting new orders for shark fin products in banqueting with immediate effect as part of its 'Sustainable Seafood Policy' according to a report in Traveloscopy.com
In December 2010 the company initiated the process with the removal of shark fin products from its restaurant menus. The new policy is a continuation of Shangri-La's journey towards environmental support, which will soon include the phasing out of endangered Bluefin tuna and Chilean sea bass.
Last November, the announcement by The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Limited (HSH), parent company of The Peninsula Hotels, that it will stop serving shark fin at all its group operations, effective 1 January 2012.
It is widely acknowledged that global shark populations are in peril, an imbalance that has disturbing knock-on effects throughout the marine environment.
Sharks are one of the most widely misrepresented animals on the planet. Whether it is the overzealous reporting of ‘shark attacks’ or Hollywood classic films like ‘Jaws’, sharks are in desperate need of some good publicity.
“These are ecosystems that have evolved over millions and millions of years," says Peter Knights, director of WildAid International, “As soon as you start to take out an important part of it, it's like a brick wall, you take out bricks [and] eventually it's going to collapse."
WildAid's mission, according to their website, is to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes by reducing demand through public awareness campaigns and providing comprehensive marine protection.
Shark fin soup is a key reason why one-third of the world’s shark species are now threatened with extinction. Fins from up to 73 million sharks are used every year to make shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy that fetches up to USD$100 per bowl.
While western countries like the USA and Canada have enacted bans on shark fin products, this does not address the international trade, especially in Asia.
With high profile announcements by HSH and Shangri-La (also Hong Kong based) it shows that the message is finally getting out.
According to WildAid, The Peninsula and Shangri-La Hotels’ ban of shark fins exemplifies how businesses can become leaders in conservation, dissuading people from purchasing wildlife products and spreading awareness of the detrimental effects of the illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade. Paired with WildAid’s Chefs Against Shark Fins campaign, and outreach efforts of its celebrity ambassadors, such as Yao Ming and Sir Richard Branson, the support of the hospitality sector can play a major role in halting the rapid decline of threatened shark species and deteriorating marine ecosystems.
Thus far, the campaign has attracted support from internationally renowned chefs Wolfgang Puck, Gordon Ramsey, Mario Batali, as well as some of California's most highly respected chefs including Hiro Stone (Terra), Patricia Unterman (Hayes Street Grill), Charles Phan (The Slanted Door), Cecilla Chiang (the former Mandarin), Alex Ong (Betelnut), Kin Lui (Tataki South), Kenny Zhu (Tataki South) and dozens of others.
"There's been a massive increase in shark fin soup and the killing of sharks," said Branson, whose Virgin Airlines bans transport of shark fins. "The world is getting wealthier, particularly in China, and they can now afford to buy shark fin soup.
"We're trying to get other businesses to ban the transportation of shark fins," he said.