Hong Kong (20th Dec, 2016) – With an average of 50,000 couples getting married annually, wedding banquets are still one of the major occasions where shark fin is consumed in Hong Kong, especially in traditional Chinese restaurants. A recent survey conducted by the Hong Kong Shark Foundation, students from City University and 20 volunteers, interviewed 411 guests at 30 wedding banquets. The survey showed that only a minority (just 5%) of respondents actually like shark fin soup, the majority (90%) passively consume it, simply because it’s being served. It’s estimated that 323,783 tables from 11,783 wedding banquets serve shark fin annually, averaging 32 shark fin wedding banquets each day.
To eat or not to eat?
The Hong Kong Shark Foundation visited 30 wedding banquets at Chinese restaurant chains including Taoheung, East Ocean, Maxim’s, Fulum, U-banquet and The Palace, and conducted surveys with 411 guests from November to December 2017. Although in recent years the awareness of shark conservation has improved in Hong Kong, shark fin is still ubiquitous in wedding banquets in the city. The result found that 72% of respondents never eat shark fin except at such banquets, and 83% say the last time they ate shark fin was at a traditional Chinese restaurant.
In fact over 90% of guests attending wedding banquets which served shark fin soup, would eat it. Over 50% of those justify their action however by citing ‘avoiding food waste’ and ‘showing respect for their host’. Only 10% of the guests would not eat shark fin soup when served. The survey confirms that shark fin soup is still consumed en masse in Hong Kong, despite a general feeling in the city that its popularity has declined amidst conservation concerns.
75% remain ‘neutral’ while 20% says they ‘dislike/ very dislike’ shark fin. Despite this ongoing consumption, shark fin soup is clearly no longer a “must have delicacy” for a decent wedding banquet and many guests are merely passively consuming it, in order to avoid offending a host or wasting food.
Prentice Koo, head of campaigns at Hong Kong Shark Foundation said, “Shark fin menus are putting Hong Kong’s wedding guests in a dilemma between wasting food or standing by their values. Chinese restaurant’s default menu and the wedding couple’s decisions to serve shark fin are contributing to the decline in shark populations.”
“With the call on shark conservation globally, the amount of shark fin consumed in Hong Kong Chinese restaurants is still way too high. When 70% of the hotel chains have committed to no shark fin, Chinese restaurants must change their business model in order to share the responsibility for shark conservation.” Koo said.
The survey also found that the vast majority (94%) of the guests interviewed, were not willing to express their views on shark fin soup to their hosts.
The continued consumption of shark fin seems to be a function of restaurants persistently offering shark fin in banquet menus and wedding couples being unaware that the majority of their guests would rather not eat it.
Hong Kong Shark Foundation is hoping to meet with popular Chinese restaurant groups in Hong Kong to ask for information on shark fin consumption, and provide support to phase out shark fin in their businesses. We urge the Chinese restaurants to provide incentives to customers on non-shark fin options.
HK Shark Foundation reminds listed restaurant groups, including Taoheung, Fulum, U-banquet and Star of Canton, that according to Hong Kong Stock Exchange “Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)” reporting requirements, from 2017 it is mandatory to disclose company policies on minimising impacts on the environment and natural resources.
Moreover, in order to encourage more wedding couples to say no to shark fin, Hong Kong Shark Foundation will offer two free air tickets for the couples that say no to shark fin in their Chinese restaurant wedding banquet from January to March 2017.
Chinese Restaurant chains covered in the research：
|Taoheung||East Ocean||Treasure Lake||Fulum|
|Super Star||Maxim’s||The Palace||Paramount|
|U Banquet||King of the king||Choi Fook||Lei Garden|
|Star Seafood||Majesty||Club One||Star of Canton|
 There were 51609 weddings in 2015 according to government figures. 70% of new couples will hold wedding banquets, 54.5% of them will have banquets in traditional Chinese restaurants with 20-35 tables in average, according to a market study for the listing of U-banquet on HK Stock Exchange in 2013. 59.8% of couples will serve shark fin in Chinese wedding banquet. So the calculation is 51,609 X 70% X 54.5% X 59.8% X 27.5 = 323,783 tables