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Shark fin soup slowly goes off menu

world Updated: Nov 15, 2011 00:30 IST
Chinese couples

Chinese couples who have chosen Friday - 11/11/11 - one of the most auspicious days of the year to exchange their wedding vows, could be among the last to mark the occasion by feasting on shark fin soup, if environmental groups get their way.

As the wedding parties scoop pieces of the flesh from bowls of broth, they will not just be respecting tradition; they will also be defying a growing campaign to ban the trade in shark fin that has now spread to its most lucrative market, Hong Kong.

It is easy to see during a short walk through Sheung Wan, a Hong Kong neighbourhood specialising in dried seafood, why the campaign to ban the trade worldwide has set its sights on the city.

Shark fins are a gastronomic preserve of wealthy Chinese since the Song Dynasty in the 10th century.

After years of fierce opposition from traders and retailers, campaigners in Hong Kong say the local population is finally waking up to the ecological catastrophe. But, despite its early successes, the campaign has yet to challenge shark fin's place at the heart of Cantonese cuisine.

Many shark populations have plummeted by 90% in recent decades, according to campaigners, who warn that if over-fishing continues at the current rate, the most commonly targeted species will be extinct in a few years.