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18,000 hotels have dropped shark fins
Published on: Sunday, January 22, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Action taken by global hotel brands to ban shark fin dishes from their offerings over the last five years has gathered tremendous momentum, with over 18,000 international hotels removing this declining group of species off their menus.

According to WWF Malaysia, over 80 hotels and restaurants in the country have committed to be an environmentally responsible business by not serving shark fin dishes.

Many observers note that the Hong Kong Shanghai Hotels (owner of Peninsula hotels) was an early mover in removing shark fin when it announced that it would stop serving the dish at all its properties from January 2012 onwards. Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts followed shortly afterwards.

A movement that started in Hong Kong but has spread regionally and worldwide has seen hotels announce the removal of shark fin dishes partly as a result of engagement by conservation groups, including WWF.

Nearly 25 per cent of sharks, rays and chimera are facing extinction, according to a 2014 study led by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group, with over-fishing for fins and meat being the major cause.

"Removing sharks from the marine food chain de-stabilises marine ecosystems, which in turn has repercussions for people everywhere," said Andy Cornish, Shark and Ray Initiative Leader, WWF International.

"Most international hotel chain outlets have recognised the serious threat that shark-fin consumption poses to the marine ecosystem. But much work still needs to be done. We now call on those in the food-service industry who have not taken such action to get in step with the global movement to respect and preserve our oceans."

The Hong Kong Shanghai Hotels and Shangri-La actions were followed by similar announcements from several international major hotel chains. Hilton, which operates approximately around 4,700 properties, announced its shark-fin ban in 2014, as did Starwood, which operates some 1,300 hotels worldwide. InterContinental Hotels Group has also announced the banning of shark fin dishes at its 5,000-some properties.

Other hotel groups with sizeable outlet numbers that ban shark fins include Carlson Rezidor with more than 1,100 hotels and Marriot International with nearly 4,500 outlets.

According to WWF calculations, at least 18,200 hotels, including a number of individual properties, no longer sell shark fin.

"My Fin My Life campaign was launched in January 2016, calling for one million Malaysians to pledge not to consume shark fins and products, and to educate public about the environmental damage caused by shark consumption.

In line with this campaign, WWF-Malaysia has developed a corporate pledge to obtain commitments from hotels and restaurants to remove shark-fin products from their menu," said WWF-Malaysia Executive Director/CEO Dato' Dr Dionysius Sharma.

Dr Sharma added, "So far, 31 hotels such as Aloft KL Sentral, Shangri-La Putrajaya, Hard Rock Hotel Penang, Hotel Jen Penang, The Klagan Hotel, Ming Garden and Hilton Kuching, have come onboard My Fin My Life campaign and pledged not to serve, promote or trade shark fins and shark products."

"Franchises Sushi King and Delicious took the lead in fin-free restaurant movement several years ago in Malaysia in support of Shark Savers' I'm FINished with FINS campaign and recent supporters include D One restaurant and Ilbacaro restaurant of Campbell House Penang, who both have pledged under the My Fin My Life campaign," he said.

The last five years have been an active time in the shark conservation movement. The landmark Global Priorities for Conserving Sharks and Rays – A 2015-2025 Strategy, was drafted by the Global Shark and Ray Initiative, including WWF and other conservation leaders, which collectively mapped out priorities for halting declines of shark and ray populations.

In October 2016, parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) added 13 species of sharks and rays to Appendix II, bringing the total that cannot be traded internationally unless harvested sustainably to 20. However, shark fin dishes remain a popular wedding dish in East and Southeast Asia, and most fisheries that take sharks remain poorly managed.

Tens of millions of sharks and related species are caught annually. This includes around 10 million blue sharks taken for their fins, and increasingly meat.

Indonesia, India and Pakistan land around 25 per cent of the global catch of sharks, rays and chimera.

Hong Kong handles between 50pc and 80pc of the global trade in shark fins, bringing in catches from more than 100 countries, with Spain its biggest supplier.

"It's about encouraging a responsible approach to the environment," said Dr Cornish.

"Every restaurant and hotel which recognises that many species of sharks are in dire straits and that a responsible menu does not offer shark fin, sends a message to others in the industry who have not yet taken action."

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