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

Shark fin soup still on offer

Shark-fin soup is available at many of Auckland's Chinese restaurants despite a determined environmental campaign to ban the collection of fins.

The soup is a staple part of Chinese banquets such as weddings and celebratory birthday dinners.

SkyCity's Jade Dragon restaurant has dropped shark-fin soup from its menu - but offers the dish "on request". The popular dish can be ordered at Grand Harbour and Crystal Harbour at the Viaduct.

SkyCity spokeswoman Kelly Armitage said it cost $70 for a bowl that contained only shark fin and $38 for soup that came with other seafood such as crab meat and scallops.

Delegates at the triennial Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Bangkok voted on Monday to regulate the trade in shark species that have been threatened because of the demand for their fins for the soup.

More than two dozen species of shark are officially endangered and more than 100 others considered threatened or vulnerable.

A study in the journal Marine Policy raised concerns about shark welfare and sustainability and claimed more than 100 million sharks were slaughtered each year.

Conservationists say the practice of "finning", where fins are sliced from live sharks and the rest of the bleeding fish is dumped back into the sea to die a slow death, is inhumane.

A Jade Dragon staff member told the Herald menu changes were made last year after the restaurant changed its name from Ming Court, and shark-fin soup was available only on request.

Ms Armitage said the fins sourced were from suppliers who "complied with or exceeded" New Zealand animal welfare legislation.

"We have assurance from our supplier, United Fisheries Ltd, that all shark species are net-caught locally and the entire carcass is used," said Ms Armitage.

Conservationist Estella Lee said it was disappointing that Chinese restaurants were continuing to offer shark fin soup despite it being dropped from the menu.

"It is just unfortunate that some businesses see making money as the most important thing in life," said Ms Lee, who chairs the Chinese Conservation Education Trust.

"I'm Chinese, too, and I used to love taking shark fin soup, but I learned that none of the taste that's in the soup comes from the shark fin."

"People can continue to have their gourmet soup, but it can be done without the shark fin."

Restaurants serving shark-fin have been sent letters by the trust accusing them of "directly contributing to the global decline of shark populations" and "condoning barbaric finning practices".

The UN says 90 per cent of the world's sharks have disappeared in the past 100 years.

- NZ Herald

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