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December 19, 2013

Majority of China’s High-End Restaurants Keep Cruel Shark Fin on Menu, Survey Finds

Restaurants must end practice as government and international regulations tighten

Humane Society International

  • As China makes strides in animal protection, including issuing regulations prohibiting shark fins and other wildlife from menus at official functions, restaurants must follow suit. Terry Goss Photography USA/Marine Photobank

BEIJING—Most high-end restaurants in China are continuing to serve shark fins to customers despite the Chinese government’s move to phase out from official functions dishes whose ingredients include parts from threatened shark species, a new survey shows.

Humane Society International and Beijing-based environmental organization The Nature University call on restaurants to remove shark fins from their menus.

As China makes strides in animal protection, including issuing regulations prohibiting shark fins and other wildlife from menus at official functions, restaurants must follow suit. In the cruel, wasteful shark fin trade, fins from as many as 100 million sharks supply the demand for shark fin soup each year. China is the largest market for shark fins, a key ingredient in shark fin soup.

At a press conference in Beijing, TNU released results from 207 restaurants surveyed. TNU staff members and volunteers placed calls to selected restaurants in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, three of China’s largest cities. Restaurants were chosen by customers who spend an average of USD$24, and restaurants were asked a series of questions. Findings included:

  • Staff from 156 restaurants—or 76 percent of the total surveyed—said they sold shark fins.
  • TNU staff and volunteers asked 52 restaurants additional questions gauging knowledge of protections for shark species and found that only 16 restaurants knew of the government’s regulations prohibiting shark fins from official functions. Only 21 restaurants provided answers indicating that staff members understood that populations of many shark species are threatened. 

Iris Ho, HSI wildlife program manager, said: “Consumption of shark fin represents animal cruelty, wasteful extravagance and is environmentally unsustainable. The recent issuance of the government’s No Shark Fin guidelines at official functions gives restaurants a great impetus to take shark fins off their menus.”

In the global shark fin trade, tens of millions of sharks have their fins cut off. They are thrown back into the ocean, often while still alive, only to drown, starve or die a slow death due to predation from other animals. Some species of shark are on the brink of extinction due to the cruel and exploitative shark fin industry. Earlier this year in March, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, to which China is a member, adopted measures to restrict international commercial trade in five shark species whose fins and other parts are heavily traded in the global shark fin market. The Chinese government is working to implement these new restrictions.

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Media Contact: HSI (United States): Rebecca Basu, +1 (240-753-4875), rbasu@humanesociety.org

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