SINGAPORE, Feb 9 — About 90 establishments based here will completely remove shark’s fin from their menus or serve them only upon request, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said today.
Those that have signed such commitments with the non-profit conservation organisation for the year ahead include food delivery firm Foodpanda, Pan Pacific Hotels Group, Crystal Jade Culinary Concepts Holding and AccorHotels.
“This move signals a collective effort by the food and beverage industry to address the serious threat that shark fishing poses,” the WWF said in its press release.
Based on figures from global environmental network the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a quarter of sharks and rays are facing extinction. A separate study in 2013 estimated that about 100 million sharks are killed each year globally, driven by the demand for shark’s fins and meat.
Yet, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan remain top importers of shark’s fin. Singapore alone imported 14,134 tonnes and exported 11,535 tonnes of shark’s fin between 2005 and 2013, based on a report released by wildlife monitoring network Traffic and WWF last year.
WWF chief executive officer Elaine Tan said that sharks help maintain balance in ocean ecosystems and keep fish populations healthy. The collapse of shark populations will eventually affect access to seafood, a crucial source of protein for people in Singapore.
Referring to its Singapore Shark Fin Consumer Survey in 2016, which found that eight out of 10 Singaporeans have stopped ordering shark’s fin, Tan said that the move by the F&B sector will further shut down that demand.
“This commitment by F&B establishments is crucial to saving sharks and the ecosystems that depend on them. As sustainable options do not exist for sharks, halting consumer demand is the only solution today,” she added.
To clamp down on the sale of shark’s fin this year, the establishments may choose to completely remove shark’s fin from their menus and set a policy against serving this food item — which was what 44 out of the 89 establishments committed themselves to doing.
Likewise, they may remove shark’s fin from their menus and serve it only when requested or on a case-by-case basis, which was what the remaining 45 establishments pledged to do.
Establishments may also choose to stop serving shark’s fin for a trial period of time.
Largest collective pledge to date
Since WWF’s efforts to get Singapore’s food and hospitality industries to take action to phase out shark products a year ago, this number has grown from 16 to 89 establishments in the past year.
This is WWF’s largest collective pledge by the industries here to date, though the list is non-exhaustive.
Tan said that customer demand has been the primary reason why these establishments have taken the pledge. From WWF’s discussions with chefs, sales teams and upper management of these businesses, these pledges reflect the strong public support here for the removal of shark products, she added.
Environmental issues related to consumption of shark meat and fins are not new among consumers in Singapore and abroad. About 18,000 hotels worldwide have removed and banned shark’s fin from their menus, she said.
“As (this) movement picks up across the world, we see a greater willingness by businesses to take action on this important issue,” she added.
Starting March 5, Foodpanda will remove shark-based dishes from the menus of the restaurants listed on its platforms.
Its head of marketing and sustainability lead Laura Kantor said that 93 out of 3,800 restaurants on the platform serve shark’s fin and less than 1 per cent of total orders include shark’s fin.
“While the number may seem insignificant, due to the large volume of orders Foodpanda receives, this is a sizable number,” she added.
No more sales or orders
Since the start of the year, the 34 properties and seven restaurants around the world under the Pan Pacific Hotels Group — which is based here — have stopped serving shark’s fin. They will not be available upon request and the group will not sell, display or buy shark’s fin or shark products anymore.
Previously, shark’s fin was served at the group’s Chinese restaurants and was available on wedding menus. The group will, however, continue to honour wedding packages with shark’s fin if these were signed before Jan 1.
Its vice-president of food and beverage Golden Whitehead said that guests have been generally open and are not insistent on being served shark’s fin. The restaurants would also offer alternatives to those who do ask for shark’s fin, such as bird’s nest soup and sea cucumber.
Crystal Jade Culinary Concepts Holding will remove shark’s fin dishes from its Chinese New Year set menus. From Jul 31, it will also remove shark’s fin from the menus of its 28 restaurants.
The group’s chief executive Douglas DeBoer said that the commitment is part of its corporate initiative to become a more socially and environmentally responsible business.
The company is confident that the move will improve customers’ perceptions and lead them to patronise its restaurants more often. In addition, many younger and environmentally conscious customers will appreciate and be supportive that it has taken this big step forward, he added. — TODAY