China Anti-Corruption Reform: Shark Fins, Bird Nests, Upmarket Cigarettes And Alcohol Banned From State Events

on December 09 2013 11:13 AM
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More than 10,000 pieces of shark fins drying on the rooftop of a factory building in Hong Kong REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Good news for sharks! China has banned the consumption of shark fin soup at government events. The move, while aimed at reducing corruption and conspicuous spending among Chinese officials, will also spare many sharks their lives.

The central government on Sunday banned official dinners from serving shark fin, along with bird nests, wild animal products, expensive cigarettes and alcohol in a regulation published from the Communist Party of China Central Committee, in an ongoing bid to regulate the use of public funding, Xinhua, China’s state news outlet, reported.

The new rules are intended “to promote frugality, oppose extravagance and enhance the anti-corruption efforts among party and governmental authorities,” Xinhua said. The latest move from President Xi Jinping, who has undertaken the mission to curb corruption since taking office, will have a sizeable effect on the global shark fin trade.

According to the Independent, more than 95 percent of the shark fin harvest each year is consumed in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. WildAid, a U.S.-based conservation organization, estimated that as many as 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins, and after years of harvesting, one third of the nearly 500 shark species are now facing extinction.

Thankfully, recent efforts from conservation groups and public figures like Yao Ming, have helped reduce the market by 50 to 70 percent already, after the industry boomed for years, serving China’s newly rich. Roughly one third of Hong Kong’s shark fin shops have closed down in recent years due to pressure from environmentalists.

“Finning” sharks is a savage practice where fins of captured sharks are hacked off, and the animals are thrown back into the sea to drown or bleed to death. A bowl of shark fin soup can cost up to $300 in China, and has long been considered a delicacy and a status symbol. 

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