Why the China communist party ban on extravagant banquets may save some sharks from extinction

Each year, millions of sharks are killed just for their fins, a practice called shark finning.  The fins — the most profitable part of the shark — are removed and the shark is returned to the sea alive, and eventually sinks to the bottom of the ocean and suffocates.

Outside of Asia, the state of California and New York are among the largest market for shark fins.  A new law banning the sale of dried shark fins took effect in California in August of this year.  In New York, a new law banning the possession, distribution and sale of shark fins will also be in place next summer.

Shark fins NOAA photo

Photo of NOAA agent counting confiscated shark fins via Wikipedia commons – http://www.magazine.noaa.gov/stories/mag230.htm

Although U.S. bans will impact shark fin demands, the bans should also focus internationally, and on the worlds largest consumers of shark fin products, namely China, Japan and Thailand.

Last year, Chinese communist party officials banned extravagant items like expensive shark fin soups from official banquets.  This military action made a big difference in shark fin consumption in China.

Excerpt from an article posted on The Independent earlier this month:

A crackdown on extravagance and corruption within China’s ruling Communist Party is causing headaches for officials used to splashing the cash on banquets, but it’s proving a lifesaver for sharks.

Consumption of shark fin, the key ingredient in the pricey and extravagant banquet staple shark-fin soup, has dropped by 70 per cent since the end of last year, according to Ministry of Commerce data.

The party leadership launched a campaign in December, vowing to target extravagance and waste, and demanding austerity from cadres and military officials as a means of curbing graft (click here to read the article)

This move by Chinese military officials is similar to a Wal-Mart effect.  As the world’s largest retailer, manufacturing decisions by Wal-Mart — such as,making its vendors minimize plastic packaging — affects the environment simply because of Wal-Mart’s size.

So let’s hope this extravagant banquet ban in China will continue to lessen the demand on shark fins.  And that continued education from celebrity ambassadors (like the Yao Ming / Richard Branson pleas for Chinese diners to stop eating shark fins) puts a stop to this cruel practice and  give shark populations a chance to recover –especially in light of the improving Chinese wealth, making this once expensive restaurant item more affordable  for many more diners (scary thought!).

Richard Branson and Yao Ming Shark ban

Retired basketball star Yao Ming teamed up with British magnate Sir Richard Branson (founder and of Virgin Atlantic) to launch a campaign urging Chinese diners to stop eating shark fins soups.

Right now, 50 of the 307 shark species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

I do wonder if the celebrity ambassador actions influenced military officials, and what impact it made, at least prior to these extravagant banquet bans.

I am less fearful of sharks now after learning about sharks on my post about the 4,000 lb shark tagged in 1990′s off Santa Cruz county caught in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez,

Sandbar Shark (Photo via NMFS - NOAA)

Sandbar Shark (Photo via NMFS – NOAA)

Related Lolako.com posts:

U.S. coast comparison of shark-attacks vs number of lightning fatalities

The man-eater label — shark attack or a shark-encounter

Links:

San Francisco based Wild Aid – Celebrity Ambassadors

Below video on shark finning

5 thoughts on “Why the China communist party ban on extravagant banquets may save some sharks from extinction

  1. The three largest supermarket chains in Singapore— Cold Storage , NTUC FairPrice and Carrefour —have stopped selling shark fins while also citing sustainability concerns.

    • That is a positive move indeed, and hopefully the country of Singapore will eventually ban shark fin sales.

      Article on Carrefour, here http://sg.news.yahoo.com/ntuc-s–no-shark-s-fin–policy-to-kick-in-by-end-april.html

      Airline bans of shark fin cargo also make a statement — ALL airlines should have these bans! Here is a link about Cathay Pacific http://sg.news.yahoo.com/cathay-bans-shark-fin-cargo-flights-055448467–finance.html

      Excerpt:

      Cathay Pacific said Wednesday it would no longer carry unsustainably sourced shark products on its cargo flights, dealing a blow to Hong Kong’s huge shark fin industry.

      Environmental groups welcomed the move but shark fin merchants said it threatened their livelihoods, even though most of the estimated 10,000 tonnes of fins Hong Kong imports annually comes by ship.

      “Cathay Pacific has decided to stop shipping unsustainably sourced sharks and shark-related products,” the airline said in a statement.

      “There is very compelling scientific evidence to support that this is the right thing to do for a company committed to sustainability.

      “Specifically, due to the vulnerable nature of sharks, their rapidly declining population, and the impacts of overfishing for their parts and products, our carriage of these is inconsistent with our commitment to sustainable development.”

      Hong Kong is one of the world’s biggest markets for shark fins, which are used to make soup that is an expensive staple at Chinese banquets.

      Environmentalists say the sustainable shark fin industry is tiny and most shark products are harvested in a way that threatens scores of shark species that are deemed vital to the health of the oceans.

      WWF-Hong Kong conservation director Andy Cornish said that while it was difficult to quantify how much shark fin Cathay carried, the ban was “fantastic news”.

      “I think the significance of this goes beyond the direct impact of any unsustainable shark fin they might have been carrying before. This continues the momentum of companies, particularly in Hong Kong, acting more responsibly,” he told AFP.

      Cathay said it had studied the issue for a “very long time” before siding with conservationists who have long been calling for curbs on the shark fin trade.

  2. Shark fin, of course, is the namesake ingredient of shark fin soup , a popular delicacy in China since the Ming Dynasty and now eaten in Chinese restaurants around the world. The soup is considered a must-have at Chinese wedding banquets and corporate dinners as a matter of wealth, pride and prestige . Beijing government officials — not to mention thousands of businessmen hoping to close the next big deal — swear they absolutely have to treat their guests to shark fin soup as a show of respect and honor. A bowl of shark fin soup sells for up to $100.

  3. These magnificent creatures have gone from predator to prey. Each year 100 million sharks are caught to meet the demand for shark fin soup in Asia. Despite surviving the history of the land mass extinctions, sharks could easily be eliminated in a few years due to human greed.

  4. Pingback: What is “Shark Week” anyway? | Lola Jane's World

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