Beijing’s top restaurants refuse to condemn shark fin

Guest post by chinadialogue intern Li Cheng

Just one of 124 top-end Beijing restaurants visited by Chinese NGO Green Beagle explicitly rejects the consumption of shark fin, according to a recent report by the environmental group.

The report has added to growing pressure on businesses that continue to sell shark fin. In November, campaigners called on Beijing’s four-star Green Restaurant at Yanshan Hotel stop the high-profile display and sale of shark fin. Yanshan Hotel and the green restaurant management office did not agree. They argue that, while standards regulating "green restaurants" ban the sale of wild or protected animals, sharks are not a protected species in China, nor is there a direct provision banning consumption of shark fin.

Of the world’s 400 shark species, over 100 are included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, a global directory of endangered and threatened species. "China’s Species Red List" also includes more than 40 endangered shark species.

First Financial Daily reported that China is the world’s largest importer of shark fin. Campaign group Green Kunming and other environmental organisations are pushing for legislation banning the sale of shark fin for reasons including: the inhumane methods of acquisition, the critically endangered state of the species, and high heavy metal content. Similar legislation has been established in, for example, California and Hawaii. In other areas with large Chinese populations, restaurants often make voluntary commitments even if specific legislation is lacking. The ban on shark fin sales is becoming a global trend.

Since 2005, “green restaurants” have followed a State Council initiative to focus their three core values on safety, health and the environment. On March 1, 2008, national standards for “green restaurants” were implemented; green foods exclude the use of ingredients from wild or protected species, while rules and regulations for green restaurants ban the sale, purchase or processing of protected species.

The new report from Green Beagle argues that, as a window into the national tourism industry, Beijing’s four and five star green restaurants should refuse to sell shark fin and call for a wider prohibition of shark fin to be incorporated into standards for green restaurants. In addition, green restaurants should become anti-shark fin advocates and work to bring about positive legislative change in order to protect sharks.

Translated by chinadialogue volunteer Tanya Mayo Bruinsma