Asia Briefing: Sharks benefit from cutbacks

Staying on the subject of fish, one of the more satisfying offshoots from the crackdown on extravagance and corruption within China's ruling Communist Party has been a decline in the consumption of shark fin.

Consumption of shark fin, the key ingredient in the pricey and extravagant banquet staple shark-fin soup, has dropped by 70 per cent since the end of last year, according to Ministry of Commerce data.

In December, the central leadership of the Communist Party launched a campaign target official extravagance and waste, and requiring austerity from cadres and military officials as a means to curb graft.

Before the anti-corruption campaign, at least 100 million yuan (€12.5 million) was spent each year on shark-fin dishes in Beijing, and official and business banquets were the main culprits.


In September 2012, Beijing diners were getting through 7.5 tonnes of shark fin a day, paying anything up to 1,800 yuan (€224) a bowl.

Zhao Ping of the Department of Consumption Economy Studies at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation believes 50 per cent of shark fin consumption stems from cutbacks in government-related dining.

"Since Chinese New Year this year, shark fin soup in the luxury hotels or restaurants has declined 70 per cent and the sales in some of the special shark-fin restaurants have declined by 50 per cent," Mr Zhao told the Xinhua news agency.

And it's not before time. Up to 100 million sharks are killed for only their fins every year, and 44 species of shark in China are in danger or face extinction. More than 95 per cent of the annual harvest of shark fin worldwide is consumed in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

It’s not just shark fin either. Sales of birds’ nest soup and abalone – both pricey menu items – slipped by40 per cent year on year.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing