As many as 4 million sharks are slaughtered each year to satisfy the nation’s taste for shark fin soup at wedding banquets, animal rights activists said yesterday.
In a survey of 76 international hotels earlier this year, the Environmental and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) found that 71 listed shark fin soup on the menu for wedding banquets, among them the Grand Hotel, the Sheraton Taipei Hotel and the Regent Taipei.
Another three said that while they would not voluntarily offer shark fin soup because of the hotels’ environmental protection policy, they would provide the course if customers made a specific request.
Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times
Two other hotels said they did not offer banquets serving Chinese food.
EAST director Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏) said that based on the quantity of shark fin that is served at the 71 hotels in question, between 920,000 and 3.86 million sharks may be killed each year.
In a presentation, Chen played a video clip showing how fishermen obtain shark fins. After the fins were cut off from the bodies of sharks, which were still alive, they were dumped back into the sea.
“Shark fin soup is a most immoral and eco-unfriendly dish, and it has no benefit to human health at all,” Chen said, adding that society encouraged couples planning to get married to specify that they did not want shark fin soup served at their wedding banquets.
She also said that Taiwan should insist that fishermen who catch sharks bring the entire carcass back to the harbor rather than dumping it into the ocean.
Chef Shih Chien-fa (施建發), also known as Maestro A-fa (阿發師), told the press conference that shark fin required seasoning as it has no flavor.
Shih and other famous local chefs were invited by the Tourism Bureau to make traditional Taiwanese banquet dishes for 1,000 people in Beijing in April.
Shih said he replaced shark fin with cultivated abalone in the traditional banquet dish fotiaoqiang, a type of shark fin soup, adding that nobody complained about the dish losing its original taste.
Shih said members of EAST had contacted him after they saw that shark fin soup would be served in Beijing and it was only after they got in touch with him that he came to understand the cruelty involved in obtaining shark fins.
Other than abalone, the shark fin can be replaced by any fish that contains collagen, Shih said.
Iris Ho (何燕青), campaign manager at Humane Society International, said Palau had turned its sea areas into protection zones for sharks and banned their commercial hunting.
US President Barack Obama also signed the Shark Conservation Act in January requiring that all vessels bring back to land caught sharks with their fins attached.
“Taiwan should draft laws or related measures that better protect sharks,” Ho said.
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