Dec 10, 2013

    Beijing ban on shark's fin lauded



    yesterday hailed a Chinese government ban on serving shark's fin, bird's nest and other wild animal products at official functions, saying it will set a precedent that will help protect endangered species.

    China's ruling Communist Party announced the ban as part of a sweeping government crackdown on corruption, excessive spending and extravagance.

    An official notice from the party's Central Committee and the State Council, China's Cabinet, released on Sunday "ruled out dishes containing shark's fin, bird's nest and wild animal products at official reception dinners".

    "It is is extremely important for a whole bunch of reasons," said Mr Matthew Durnin, a former director of science at the Nature Conservancy who has spent 20 years in China working on projects concerning endangered species.

    "With sharks particularly, they are an apex predator, they are very important. Lots of systems and animals are getting destroyed in the oceans.

    "Something that is at this higher level in China really sets a precedent that needs to be set," he said in Beijing.

    Mr Durnin said he believed Beijing would enforce the new ruling, as concerns over the environmental impact of such habits had become "very high profile" in recent years.

    Huge banquets are commonly held by local officials and state-owned companies in China to show off wealth and status to visiting guests, and expensive dishes such as shark's fin have long been staples on these occasions.

    Yao Ming, the former NBA basketball player who is possibly China's biggest sports star, pledged to stop eating shark's fin in 2006 and two years ago launched a campaign urging Chinese to do the same.

    "It's a commendable decision and a brave one that the Chinese government has taken," said Mr Alex Hofford, executive director of the marine conservation group MyOcean, based in the southern Chinese territory of Hong Kong.

    "It doesn't really matter if it is for environmental (reasons) or for curbing official extravagance, as long as the job gets done," he said.