In First for Asia, Taiwan to Ban Shark Finning

Taiwan’s luxury hotels have no interest in taking shark-fin soup off the menu. But in the wake of the hotels’ defiance, Taiwan has decided to ban the practice of shark finning

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Fresh off the heels of luxe Hong Kong–based Peninsula Hotels’ banning of the controversial shark-fin ingredient, Taiwan’s swank accommodations have refused to take shark-fin soup off the menu. But it may not matter much, as the island has introduced fishing laws in 2012 to ban shark finning. In doing so, it will be the first Asian government to disallow the practice.

(MORE: Is Shark Fin Slowly Becoming Passé in Hong Kong?)

Though just a tiny island off the coast of China, Taiwan has the fourth largest shark-fin industry in the world. (Hong Kong remains the hub.) The law doesn’t stop fisherman from catching sharks entirely, but it does make it illegal to take the fish back in pieces.

The European Commission, which has “banned” finning in E.U. waters, was also recently forced to issue draft legislation to close a loophole within its own rules. Though the sharks can’t be finned, it does allow fisherman to land shark carcasses and their fins as long as they comply with a strict fin-to-carcass weight ratio. If the revised law passes, all sharks must land with their fins attached similar to the contingencies in the Taiwanese legislation.

Though finning would be in theory banned, at least at sea, there are questions raised. There is nothing to stop fisherman from slicing fins off the carcasses once boats land, though carcass load could help reduce the number of shark fins that are able to pass through the island.

MORE: Shark-Fin Soup and the Conservation Challenge

Erica Ho is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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