Sun, Nov 27, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Hotels refuse to drop shark fin soup

FIN DE SIECLE?Major hotels said they have no plans to follow Peninsula Hotels in dropping the item, despite the objections of environmentalists and young people

Staff Writer, with CNA

Local luxury hotels said they did not intend to follow in the footsteps of the Peninsula Hotels group, a prestigious Hong Kong hotel chain that recently announced it would stop serving shark fin.

Major five-star hotels in Taiwan, including the Regent Taipei and L’Hotel de Chine Group, said that although they recognized global efforts to protect the threatened predators, there were no plans to change the way they do business in the near future.

Under huge pressure from environmental groups to stop shark finning — cutting the fins off sharks and throwing the animals back into the sea to die — Peninsula -Hotels said on Monday that it would take shark fin off its menus starting in January.

However, because shark fin soup is considered a delicacy, luxury hotels in Taiwan have no plans to drop the dish from their menus.

“Our job is to meet the requirements of our clients,” a Regent Taipei public relations officer said.

Taiwan is one of the world’s top producers and consumers of shark fin.

Taiwanese hotels’ decision not to drop shark fin comes despite increasing consumer demand, especially from young couples, that the hotels use aqua-cultured abalone or tilapia instead of shark fin in wedding banquets.

A local animal welfare group said that although most of the hotels do not actively encourage customers to order shark fin, they should take more responsibility for changing consumer habits by following the Peninsula Hotels group’s lead.

“If a Hong Kong mega-business can make such a commitment, I don’t see why we can’t,” Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan director Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏) said.

A survey conducted by the society earlier this year found that 71 out of 76 major hotels in Taiwan offer shark fin soup, which is popular in other parts of East Asia.

Taiwanese have consumed about 3,000 tonnes of shark fin in the past five years, Chen said.

Chef Shih Chien-fa (施建發), also known as Maestro A-fa (阿發師), said he fully supported Chen’s -appeal and did not serve shark fin in his restaurants.

“It is the cooking skills of the chefs, not the shark’s fin, that makes the dish delicious,” he said.

In response to mounting public calls to ban shark fin, the Fisheries Agency has promised to implement a new regulation to force fishermen to keep shark catches intact when they arrive at port — making Taiwan the first country in Asia to do so.

The agency said the regulation can prevent fishermen from finning to make space to store more fins.

“It will require a lot of manpower for law enforcement,” Fisheries Agency Deputy -Director-General Tsay Tzu-yaw (蔡日耀) said. “As a result, we have started educating local fishermen to reduce the chances of violation in the first place.”

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