Chinese officials facing shark fin soup ban - eventually
The global campaign against the mass slaughter of sharks to make soup from their fins looks likely to notch up a notable victory in China, with a ban on it being served at official functions. It will, however, take rather a long time to implement according to reports circulating in state media.
CCTV reported yesterday that the State Council's Government Offices Administration is likely to put a ban on shark fin being served at state banquets in about three years time. The authorities concede, however, that the ban could be implemented in one or two years "if proper conditions prevail".
Quite what "proper conditions" are remains a bit of a mystery but the administration said it will continue to hammer out details clarifying the ban on shark fin consumption at official receptions in co-ordination with other government bodies.
The move is believed to be in response to a call made by 30 National People's Congress (NPC) deputies March this year for shark fin to be taken off the menu at official banquets during this year's twin meeting of the NPC and the National People's Consultative Committee.
In an apparent attempt to limit lavish banquets that often feature expensive shark fin, the administration also said the cost of official receptions should be reduced, and funds allocated to official banquets needs to be cut. It said discipline inspection and supervision departments will also have to do their job and punishing those who organize lavish official banquets.
Somewhere between 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 while the World Wildlife Fund says that 181 species of shark are under threat, up from 15 in 1996. Over 95 percent of the annual harvest of shark fin worldwide is consumed on the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Those who support the consumption of sharks fin say that, since ancient times in China it has been considered a delicacy that also perks up one's health, especially when consumed prior to the onset of winter.
Guo Guangchang, a NPC deputy who wants shark fin banned from banquets believes it may actually 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," he told Global Times.
In China, 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. The Hong Kong Government banned sharks fin from official functions last year.
Outside Asia, legislation banning shark fin has been introduced in five US states and various parts of Canada.