Luxury hotels to keep shark fin soup


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

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

Under huge pressure from environmental groups to stop shark finning — an inhumane practice of cutting the fins off sharks and throwing the animals back into the sea to die, Peninsula Hotels said on Monday that it will strike shark fin off its menu from January next year.

However, as shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in Chinese culture, major luxury hotels in Taiwan have no plans to make a similar move.

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

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

The Taiwanese hotels’ decisions come despite an 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 although most of the hotels do not actively recommend customers order shark fin, they should take more responsibility in changing consumer behaviors by learning from Peninsula Hotels.

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

According to its survey earlier this year on the consumption of shark’s fin, 71 out of 76 major hotels in Taiwan provide the soup — which is also popular elsewhere in East Asia — on their menu.

To provide shark fin soup, Taiwan has used around 3,000 tons of shark’s fin in the past five years, Chen said.

Shih Chien-fa, a chef who is better known as Taiwan’s “God of Cookery,” said he is in full support of Chen’s appeal and does not provide shark fin in his own restaurants.

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

In response to the public’s mounting calls for banning shark’s fin, Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency (FA) 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 would require much manpower for law enforcement,” said the agency’s deputy director-general Tsay Tzu-yaw. “As a result, we have started educating local fishermen to reduce the chances of violation in the first place.”