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November 24, 2011

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Shark fin off the menu at top hotels

TWO luxury hotels in Shanghai are taking shark fin off the menu in response to a global call to help protect the species and end animal cruelty.

Shark fin soup is a popular delicacy in Asian countries and about 1.5 million sharks are slaughtered every week for their fins to satisfy a demand that is driving the species to the brink of extinction.

Retired NBA star Yao Ming and British tycoon Richard Branson addressed a gathering of China's richest and most influential business people in Shanghai in September urging them to give up eating shark fin dishes.

The Peninsula Shanghai said yesterday that it would stop serving shark fin dishes from January 1, a move that will be repeated in the other eight Peninsula hotels around the world.

"The hotel will strictly follow the ban. The renewed menus will be put into service as planned on the first day of next year. Our restaurant staff will recommend customers opt for some replacement seafood dishes, such as sea cucumber, when they order shark fin after the ban takes effect," a Shanghai Peninsula spokeswoman said.

"By removing shark fin from our menus, we hope that our decision can contribute to preserving the marine ecosystem for the world's future generations. As Asia's oldest hotel company, we also hope our decision will inspire other hospitality companies to do the same," said Clement K.M. Kwok, CEO of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Limited, parent company of the Peninsula group.

The Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel Shanghai said there had been no shark fin on its menus since it opened in March and that was the case at all Jumeirah hotels around the world.

Both hotel groups said they would also refuse to provide shark fin dishes for events such as wedding banquets.

The moves were welcomed by animal welfare groups in Shanghai while they also expressed concern that efforts on larger scale were urgently needed.

Hui Hui, a member of the Shanghai-based JAR animal protection organization, said: "I sure appreciate such moves. But I believe more ordinary people need to be given the chance to learn about the harm of eating shark fin. More individuals should volunteer to join the fight against eating shark fin, such as boycotting restaurants serving the dish."

Despite rising public awareness, shark fin is still readily available in hotels and restaurants in Shanghai.

In September, the Dragon Hotel in Hangzhou stopped selling shark fin in a bid to encourage environmental protection. The move would cost the hotel at least 6 million yuan a year, it said.

Many couples who had ordered shark fin for their wedding banquets at the hotel had agreed to cancel the dish, according to the hotel.


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