Singapore MP urges ban on shark’s fin from public service events

Singapore MP Louis Ng submitted a parliamentary question asking whether shark’s fin is still being served at public service events and if it will be on the menu at future events. — Reuters pic
Singapore MP Louis Ng submitted a parliamentary question asking whether shark’s fin is still being served at public service events and if it will be on the menu at future events. — Reuters pic

SINGAPORE, Jan 18 — Shark’s fin dishes should be banned from events organised by or for the public service, Singapore Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng said.

Ng, who is MP for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency, submitted a parliamentary question on the issue earlier this week, asking whether shark’s fin — traditionally considered a delicacy and a staple at Chinese weddings and formal banquets — is still being served at public service events and if it will be on the menu at future events.

In a written response, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said that government agencies decide on their respective menus based on what is “prudent and appropriate for the occasion.”

“We do not have policies specific to the serving of shark’s fin,” Chan said, adding that public agencies abide by the procurement principles of fairness, transparency and value-for-money.

Speaking to TODAY, Ng said that these principles would rule out serving shark’s fin dishes.

“Shark’s fin is really neither fair, transparent nor value for money,” he said.

“It’s definitely not fair to the sharks and our marine ecosystem, and even to us, because those who already avoid eating shark’s fin have no say in the menu at such events.”

Shark’s fin dishes also go against the principle of transparency, because there are many questionable practices in the shark’s fin trade and “you really don’t know if you are eating shark’s fin from a protected species,” he added.

“And lastly, it’s not value-for-money because it’s so expensive.”

Ng noted that many organisations have stopped serving shark's fin. “So naturally, as the biggest employer in Singapore, the public service should also stop this practice. It is the right thing to do,” he added.

While there are no government policies specific to the serving of shark’s fin, there is a Whole-Of-Government Healthier Catering policy for public service events.

TODAY found that in the published list of caterers that comply with this policy, two out of the 119 caterers still offer shark’s fin on their menus.

TODAY reached out to several government agencies to ask whether they had their own policies regarding serving the dish at their events.

Most declined to comment or referred TODAY to Chan’s response to Ng.

Only the National Parks Board (NParks) said it does not serve shark's fin at its events.

NParks’ group director for corporate services, Francis Lim, said this is part of the agency’s efforts to encourage employees to be environment-friendly when organising events.

“Some of our initiatives include using energy-efficient lights, reducing the need for hardcopy documents, minimising the use of backdrops, as well as using corn ware, instead of plastic or styrofoam, when non-disposable cutlery and plates are unavailable,” he said.

“We have also stopped offering plastic bottled water at our events. Like other public agencies, NParks also exercises prudence when deciding on event menus, and this includes not serving shark’s fin.”

The World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore said that 90 Singapore-based establishments have phased out shark’s fin, including brands such as Crystal Jade and Pan Pacific Hotels.

The organisation’s chief executive officer Yeo Yun Lin said: “It’s time for the public sector to catch up.”

Ng agreed, adding that public mindsets have changed, too.

“I do believe that the expectations have changed — from expecting that shark’s fin will be served at certain events, to expecting that shark’s fin will not be served at such events. Many Singaporeans, particularly the young people, would support a standard policy of not serving shark's fin,” he said. — TODAY

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