The Peninsula Hotels group bans shark's fin from menus

The Peninsula Hotels group bans shark's fin from menus

Decadence without cruelty is the Hong Kong hotel brand's new deal. Plus, the EU takes action to protect sharks
The Peninsula Hotel shark's fin ban
Conservationists say shark fin is harvested at a high cost to biodiversity.

The Peninsula Hotels group will officially ban shark fin from its menus starting January 1, 2012.

Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, parent company of The Peninsula Hotels and several other properties announced yesterday it would stop serving shark fin at all of its restaurants around the world next year. 

"As Asia’s oldest hotel company, we also hope that our decision will inspire other hospitality companies to do the same," said Clement K.M. Kwok, CEO of Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels.

"Our industry will play a role in helping to preserve the bio-diversity of our oceans."

The group says it will still honor banquet bookings involving shark fin made prior to November 21, even if taking place after January 1.

The Peninsula Hotels are in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Tokyo, Bangkok and Manila.

Also on CNNGo: Is a shark's fin ban anti-Chinese?

On the same day, the European Commission (EU) announced a proposal to fully ban "shark finning" -- the practice of cutting off the dorsal fin of a shark and throwing it back into the water while it is still alive.

Under the proposal, all vessels fishing in EU waters and all EU vessels fishing anywhere in international waters must land sharks with their fins still attached.

Shark conservationists say if the call is heeded it will greatly reduce cruelty faced by sharks and the impact on shark numbers in the wild.

A ban on shark fin soup by an iconic hotel chain follows Chinese basketball superstar Yao Ming's endorsement of the cause.

Also on CNNGo: Yao and Branson call for shark fin ban in China

"When the oldest hotel group in Hong Kong stops serving shark fin, it sends an important message to the wedding industry," says Rachel Vickerstaff of the Hong Kong Shark Foundation.

"It is possible to celebrate your wedding in style, and to pay respect to your guests, without serving shark's fin." 

Chinese wedding banquets, many of which are held in hotels, are one of the most popular occasions for serving shark fin soup, a prized luxury food in Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan. 

Hong Kong is the world’s largest shark fin trading center. About 72 million sharks are killed each year and 10,000 tons of fins are traded through the city. 

A kilo of premium dried fin can cost up to HK$10,000 (US$1,280), in Hong Kong making it a status symbol for banquet hosts.

WWF-Hong Kong says because sharks take many years to mature and produce relatively few offspring, they are particularly vulnerable to overfishing. More than 180 species were considered threatened in 2010 compared with only 15 species in 1996.

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The Peninsula Hong Kong has not featured shark fin on its à la carte menus for the last two years and has been encouraging banquet planners to order alternatives, such as conch soup.

The hotel further incentivizes guests booking their wedding packages by offering an extra night's stay if they decide not to order shark fin.

"Shark fin is very small part of our revenue," said Irene Lau, senior manager of corporate affairs at The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels.

"People choose our hotels mainly for the ambiance, the history of The Peninsula Hong Kong and the emotional bonding and service."

Lau added that guests at the group's hotels are "international-minded" and that younger clients do not ask for shark fin -- it is usually the parents who prefer to eat the traditional banquet dish.

After traveling around the world on a fistful of dollars, Zoe returns to Hong Kong, where she grew up, to discover and write about all the inspiring stuff that happens here on a daily basis.

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