Shark fin demand down, but still common at weddings

The number of people in Hong Kong who consume shark fin has more than halved over the past decade – according to a newly-released study – but researchers say more progress can be made if more people stop serving the delicacy at weddings and corporate events.

The latest study by the University of Hong Kong conducted last year found that 33 percent of respondents reported consuming shark fin soup over the past 12 months – compared to more than 70 percent in 2010.

Fifteen percent of the 1,000 people interviewed also said they had stopped eating shark fin altogether over the past five years.

Professor John Bacon-Shone, who led the study, said results showed that shark fin is most commonly consumed at weddings – both in 2020 and 2010.

But almost all respondents said they wouldn’t mind if they weren’t served shark fin at wedding banquets and corporate events.

Bacon-Shone acknowledged that while there remain cultural pressures for hosts to serve the delicacy at weddings, growing environmental awareness means there’s now often a debate on the issue.

“At the time of the first survey, definitely there were young people who told us… that even if they didn’t want shark fins on the menu, it was the older generation who said you must have it on the menu, this is part of the Chinese culture.”

But the academic noted that Hong Kong actually did not start importing large quantities of shark fins until the late 1980s, which suggests that consuming shark fin at upscale banquets is a kind of “fake culture.”

Another problem, Bacon-Shone says, is that people often have no idea even when the bowl placed in front of them contain fins from threatened or endangered species.

“The unwillingness to eat threatened species is over 96 percent,” he said, “[but] the real question is whether people know what a threatened species is.”

Stan Shea from the Bloom Association– which commissioned the survey – echoed his views, saying it’s not only sharks that are being threatened by Hong Kong’s dining habits, some kinds of sea cucumbers are also being put at risk.

He urged the government to expand protected marine areas in Hong Kong, as well as step up its regulation of the shark fin trade.