Shark fin soup, after rocketing in popularity along with China’s burgeoning economic growth, is apparently starting to fall out of favor, at least in some circles. Publicity on the environmental unsustainable (and cruel) practice of cutting off a shark’s fins and then dumping it back into the water to die, is making some headway in China.

For example, several Beijing restaurants have removed shark fin soup from their menus. Yet after 10 years of campaigning against the wasteful status symbol dish, it remains a mainstay at most of the city’s restaurants, hotels, banquets and weddings.

Though celebrity-fueled publicity campaigns – including one featuring retired basketball superstar Yao Ming – seem to have made a dent in the public consciousness, a recent survey was less than encouraging.

From the New York Times:

The survey found that only 17 of 249 luxury hotels in Beijing, Shenzhen and Fuzhou had stopped offering the popular dish. Of those that have dropped shark fin from their menus, most are owned by multinational companies like Sheraton, Marriott International and Shangri-La International Hotel Management of Hong Kong.

Shark fins on sale in Macau, pic: Anne Roberts (Flickr CC)

Shark finning is banned in Europe, Canada, the US, Australia and even Taiwan (the first to ban it in Asia), but is curiously still legal in New Zealand, that beacon of environmental friendliness. At the start of the Chinese New Year the Thai capital of Bangkok saw the launching of a campaign dubbed “Fin Free Thailand”. In Hong Kong, the world’s leading hub for the trade in shark fins, there is a growing trend among brides to omit shark fin soup from their wedding banquets. A similar trend is taking place among Canada’s Chinese community. Inspired by Canada’s Shark Truth activists, the Hong Kong Shark Foundation even launched a successful shark-free wedding contest.

From CBC News:

The battle of the brides for a free honeymoon to Fiji drew 62 entries, and according to the group the contest saved more than 16,000 bowls of shark fin soup from being served. Cloudy Cheung, the winning bride, said her wedding was an opportunity to spread the message about shark conservation.

Other progress includes airline Cathay Pacific banning shark fins from their cargo flights and a promise by the Chinese government to ban the soup from official banquets within three years. Environmentalists claim that shark fin soup is acquiring a stigma among wealthy Chinese.

In the East African Republic of Mozambique a demand for shark fins, fueled by Chinese criminal gangs, is having a negative impact on the country’s coastal wildlife. Cutting out apex predators like sharks can wreak havoc on marine ecosystems throughout the world. Read more on that story in the Guardian.

I’m curious to know whether these efforts are affecting an aggregate reduction in shark finning or if the practice is still on the rise.

A Shark Truth activist, Vancouver, Canada, pic: Rick Chung (rickchung.com)