PRESS RELEASE: Threatened Species Featured in Promotions at Chinese Restaurants HK Shark Foundation launches ‘Shark Killer Ranking’

Hong Kong (31st May, 2017) – HK Shark Foundation’s (HKSF) latest research has taken this work one step further, and found that a number of traditional Chinese restaurants continue to sell shark fins harvested from threatened species. These include “Hai hu”, from vulnerable Dusky Shark, and “Wu yang”, from the Silky Shark which has just been listed under the international trade convention. The results irrefutably demonstrate the role of Chinese restaurants in the trade of controlled species, which has dire consequences for the biodiversity of our planet. Some Chinese restaurants continue to brazenly promote their shark fin items, defying international trends pushing for shark conservation.

Prentice Koo, Head of Campaign from HKSF said, “Eating shark fin is outdated. It is hard to believe that some Chinese restaurants use discounts to promote shark fin consumption. The industry should be more aware of their corporate responsibility, consider their impacts on marine ecosystems, and stop contributing to the mass murder of sharks.” HKSF urges restaurant groups to stop selling shark fin from threatened species, and to reduce the overall shark fin sales by changing the marketing strategy.

In the past three months, HKSF has conducted a survey on the shark fin sales practices across 23 restaurant groups in Hong Kong in the form of questionnaires, and reviewing publicly available information. By comparing the species of shark fin, marketing of shark fin, and restaurant internal policy, HKSF evaluated the performance of different groups on shark conservation. The result shows that all 23 groups are still selling shark fin, and 3major problems were identified as pushing sharks to extinction.

1. Selling threatened species
There are 5 restaurant groups, including Paramount, Lei Garden, Canton Star, Ming Garden and Dragon King selling Hai hu on their main menu, at prices ranging from HK$498 to HK$1,188 per person. These 5 groups own 46 Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong and Canton Star is a listed company in Hong Kong. In addition, a restaurant also sells CITES species in Wu yang.

Hai Hu is the fin from Dusky Shark, which is vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List, holding the same status on risk of extinction as Great Panda and Polar Bear. Dusky Sharks have a low reproductive rate, as gestation can last up to 22 months. This leaves the species vulnerable to overharvesting driven by the demand for their fins.

Unfortunately, Hai hu can be openly sold across restaurant chains, as there is no protective regulation on its trade yet.

Wu yang contains the Silky Shark, a near-threatened species on IUCN Red list, which is protected across the Atlantic Ocean and Western and Central Pacific, as well as being listed under Appendix II of CITES. Individual restaurant persists in selling Wu yang despite the fact that the implementation of international trade regulation will be effective from early October this year.

Koo expressed his surprise and disappointment saying, “Threatened species need to be conserved, not consumed. Imagine how ridiculous it would be to serve iconic and endangered species, like panda, on a menu. Chinese restaurants continue to reveal their stubborn ignorance, either that or they are simply ruthless.”

2. Shark species unknown
Based on the surveys, most restaurants have not provided any information about the shark species on their menus. They use the unclear and generalised terms, like “Braised shark fin” or “Fins in chicken broth”. Only three restaurant groups replied to the survey on shark species and the origin of the fins they sell. The majority of the 20 restaurant groups refused to disclose any information. The lack of transparency or traceability within their supply chain reveals restaurant chains’ utter disregard for the urgent need for shark conservation.

3. Discount on shark fin
The survey shows that 9 Chinese restaurant chains are encouraging shark fin consumption by providing discount. Some are even giving out free shark fin soup in lucky draws. These actions demonstrate the very low level of awareness of restaurant chains, who continue to ignore the adverse impacts of their promotions. They continue to defy global commitments on shark conservation, calls for shark-free weddings from the public and the guidelines removing shark fin from government banquets. As a result, these groups are tarnishing their own image.

‘Shark Killer Ranking’ of Chinese restaurant chain
In general, Chinese restaurant chains failed to highlight or acknowledge shark conservation in their marketing efforts, flagrantly providing incentives to encourage consumers to eat more shark fin, rather than changing their behaviour, to conserve remarkable shark species. Koo called for restaurant chains to acknowledge their responsibility, stating, “Restaurant chains must promote shark-free options. They have an opportunity to be a force for positive change, promoting sustainable consumer behaviours and becoming a strong voice in support of shark conservation.” Maxim’s Group and LH Group performed the best among all 23 chains. Ming Garden ranks at the bottom, as it exhibits all three of major problems highlighted above, by serving Hai hu on their main menu and Wu yang on their seasonal set menu, providing discounts for shark fin soup and refusing to disclose the species and origin of their shark fin supply.

Stop promotion, Start reduction
HKSF demands that these chains take immediate action and stop serving threatened species, as well as cancel all promotion or discounts on shark fin products. The government and restaurants should set up a database with procured shark fins’ species and origin, in order to assess the impact of local consumption on global shark decline. Last but not least, chains should promote sustainable alternatives and set up progressive reduction targets for shark fin to achieve zero consumption.

HKSF suggests that restaurant chains adopt more ‘shark friendly’ marketing strategies, setting and following each other’s good practice, including taking shark fin off the menu and providing discounts or incentives for shark-free options. Consumers should choose restaurants according to ‘Shark Killer Ranking’ to support restaurants with more sustainable practices.

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