China to Ban Shark Fin Soup at State Banquets

The country is the world's leading consumer of the pricey — and environmentally costly — dish.

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Jeff Hutchens/Getty Images

Dead sharks lie on the floor of a fish market in Kaohsiang, Taiwan.

In a move celebrated by conservationists, the Chinese government announced this week that it plans to ban shark fin soup from government banquets. China is the world’s leading consumer of the pricey dish.

The popularity of shark fin soup has contributed to the near-extinction of several shark species. As Krista Mahr wrote for TIME in 2010, up to 70 million sharks are culled annually. Typically, the Shark’s fins are hacked off and their carcasses are dumped dumped back into the sea. Thanks in part to this grisly catch, 126 of 430 shark species are now threatened with extinction.

(MORE: Farewell to Sharks (And Yes, That’s a Bad Thing)

Hawaii, California and Guam were among the first to adopt shark fin bans. China will be the second Asian country to ban the dish, after Taiwan. The movement has even gained traction in Hong Kong, which controls up to 80 percent of the world’s shark fin trade. Several high-end restaurants and hotels in Hong Kong, including the swanky Peninsula, have removed shark fin soup from their menus.

Some Chinese citizens were not terribly impressed by the government’s announcement. Reuters reports that many netizens are taking issue with the ban’s three-year implementation window, arguing that sharks could be extinct by then. Many also view the consumption of shark fin soup at government banquets an unnecessarily lavish expense. In the words of one user, “”Ordinary people eat starch noodles, officials use the people’s money to eat shark fin.”

MORE: Shark Fin Soup and the Conservation Challenge

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