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Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Shark fin soup stays on SkyCity casino menu

Edward Rooney with shark fin soup at the Jade Dragon restaurant.
Edward Rooney with shark fin soup at the Jade Dragon restaurant.

Shark fin remains on the dinner menu at Auckland's SkyCity casino, at $70 for a small serving, despite assurances to the contrary.

And the Jade Dragon restaurant at the casino plans to offer a special set-menu - with shark fin - from the end of this month to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Previous reports from the gaming corporation stated the controversial delicacy was not on the menu, or was being removed.

A Herald on Sunday check this week found it was clearly offered - but in Chinese language only.

Public support for a ban on shark finning has gathered momentum due to the practice of chopping fins from the giant sea creatures and discarding the rest of the corpse.

The Government announced in November it intended to stamp it out and has been spurred on by 45,000 submissions to the draft National Plan of Action for Sharks.

SkyCity appeared unsure whether the dish was on menus this week. Spokeswoman Lydia Jarman said: "My understanding is it is not on the menu. Shark fin was never on the menu, not since I joined SkyCity in April last year. My understanding it is off the menu but can be ordered."

Asked if it could be on the menu in another language, Jarman said: "I don't read Cantonese, but it is my understanding it is not on the menu."

On Thursday however, waiters at the Jade Dragon Express lunch bar readily provided a copy of the dinner menu. Under the soup section, the menu reads in Chinese: "Our restaurant has many shark fin dishes. If required, please contact our staff."

On receiving the order, staff served the dish without ritual or flourish. The soup cost $70 for about 200ml, accompanied with a side of red vinegar. The savoury, slightly spicy dish has a heavy gravy-like consistency. The shark pieces are soft, like pasta, and have no discernable taste.

Pressed for a clearer answer, Jarman said in a statement: "SkyCity is removing shark fin soup from our menus but it is still available on special request. The shark fins used by SkyCity are from a sustainable source, where the shark is caught for its fillet (mainly flake) and the fins are a secondary product."

One of Auckland's largest Chinese restaurants, the Grand Harbour restaurant in the Viaduct, has put up a sign to warn customers off shark fin dishes. The sign in English and Chinese states management "strongly condemn the barbaric practice" of finning sharks.

"We are aware that drinking shark fin soup as part of a traditional cultural celebration dates back thousands of years, however we would strongly encourage our valued customers to avoid shark fin soup and try the many alternative soups we have."

But Grand Harbour staff said shark fin would be served "on request".

From January 30, SkyCity will offer a $1288 per table, set-menu for the Chinese New Year. The soup is "braised superior shark fin and chicken soup".

Jarman explained "Shark fin soup will remain on the Chinese New Year menu and will come from sustainably sourced product - not the endangered species of blue shark."

Chinese-born Labour list MP Raymond Huo said he supported the New Zealand ban on shark finning and urged the Kiwi Chinese community to rethink.

"We need to take a strong ethical stance and protect sharks in our waters from these practices and encourage other nations like Singapore and Hong Kong to follow suit."

- Herald on Sunday

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