Fri, Jan 17, 2014 - Page 9 News List

Tide turns against shark fin soup in China

Specialist restaurants in Beijing are changing their menus or closing down as the cultural tide turns against a gruesome practice and campaigners report a generational divide, with young people starting to reject their parents’ symbols of success

By John Vidal  /  The Observer

Campaigners report a generational divide emerging in China, with young people rejecting their parents’ symbols of success and status.

A recent social media campaign in China attracted more than 350,000 pledges not to eat shark fin soup, mainly from young people.

Yao’s campaign is said to have helped to reduce consumption of shark fin soup and contributed to the Chinese government’s decision to formally ban the soup from all state banquets, along with birds’ nests, other wild animal products, expensive cigarettes and alcohol.

The new rules are intended “to promote frugality, oppose extravagance and enhance the anti-corruption efforts among party and governmental authorities,” Xinhua news agency said.

Global efforts to reduce rampant shark killing have included setting up marine parks and sanctuaries. Mexico, Honduras, the Maldives, the Marshall Islands and other Pacific countries are in the process of establishing, or have already set up, large protected areas, and Britain has created the world’s largest marine reserve around the Chagos Archipelago.

Last year the EU brought in a regulation ending the practice of shark finning; in the future, all EU boats will have to land sharks with their fins still attached. California last year banned the sale, possession, trade or distribution of shark fins. And New Zealand last week brought forward to October a complete ban on shark finning in its waters.

However, the Chinese official disapproval is expected to have the greatest effect on prices and consumption.

Last week, environmental groups said that they hoped that it marked a change in broader environmental attitudes.

“The regulation stems from a crackdown on corruption and lavish spending, but language in the notice acknowledges the importance of promoting green, eco-friendly and low-carbon consumption habits,” said Joshua Reinhart, a vice-president of the Pew charitable trusts.

“China has the potential to play a key role in helping to solve the problems of climate change, overfishing, pollution and conservation. The new shark-fin diplomacy may be a pivotal event,” he said.

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