A campaign to lower the consumption of shark fins in China appears to be achieving results. According to wildlife protection groups, the consumption of shark fin soup in China was down 50 to 70 percent in 2013 when compared to two years before.
Previously, up to 70 million sharks were killed each year in order to meet the demand for shark fin soup in China. Sharks would be captured and have its fins cut off while the rest of the body was thrown back into the water. The fins would be used in soup and sold at an expensive price at wedding receptions and banquets in order to display a person’s social status.
There were several factors that lead to the lower demand. First was a public awareness campaign that featured former NBA star Yao Ming that aimed to educate the public. A survey conducted in 2005-2006 found that 80 percent of respondents did not know that “fish wing” soup was actually shark fins.
In addition to awareness, steps taken by the Chinese government to stop ordering the soup at official banquets lead to lower demand.
Industry groups in Hong Kong state that imports of shark fins have declined by 20 to 30 percent, while the Commerce Ministry reported that consumption of shark fin soup was down 70 percent during the 2013 Spring Break Holiday from the year before. Traders in Beijing Marketplaces have been forced to lower their prices in order to move inventory. A half-kilo of dried shark fin currently sells for $110, down from the previous $165.
In high-end restaurants in Beijing, a bowl of shark fin soup sells for $60 to $325. Some hotels and restaurants no longer offer the soup.
Source: Washington Post, “Wildlife victory: shark fin falls from favor in China,” Japan Times, October 20, 2013.