Taiwan joins global efforts to ban shark finning


TAIPEI–The government and local hotels have stepped up their efforts to ban shark finning amid a global movement to oppose the practice — in which fishermen cut the fins off sharks and then throw the animals back into the sea to die.

The Fisheries Agency implemented a regulation earlier this week that will force fishermen to keep shark catches intact until they arrive in port, a rule the agency hopes will prevent fishing vessels from making space to store more fins and end the cruel practice.

By being the first country in Asia to impose such a restriction, Taiwan showed its resolution to promote sustainable fishing, the agency said.

“We have to start with the supply chain — the fishermen — in impression on them the significance of the law so the chances of violations can be reduced,” said Fisheries Agency Deputy Director-General Tsay Tzu-yaw.

Likewise, local hotels such as W Taipei, The Westin Taipei, the Silks Palace at National Palace Museum, and Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel in Taipei and Tainan, also pledged to strike shark fin dishes off their menus.

While the hotels would oblige if customers asked for shark fin dishes at their wedding banquets, the latest commitment means a complete ban of the ingredient, hotel operators said.

“We will suggest other same-level delicacies — such as silky fowl and abalone — for our customers,” said Tricia Chen, assistant communications manager of Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei.

The commitment makes sense, said Shih Chien-fa, a chef better known as Taiwan’s “God of Cooking.”

“It’s the cooking skills of the chef, not the shark fin, that makes the dish delicious,” said Shih, who stopped offering shark fin in his own restaurant three years ago.

The move by local hotels came after The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong announced a chain-wide ban last November.

Chen Yu-min, director of the Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan, said both the government’s and hospitality industry’s efforts were praiseworthy.

“Their actions help define what kind of country Taiwan is,” Chen said. “It is very nice of them to launch the policies just before the Lunar New Year, when the consumption of shark fin could rise tremendously.”

According to a Pew Environment Group report last year, Taiwan has accounted for 5.8 percent of the world’s shark catch, mostly to provide shark fin for wedding banquets.