A report has claimed that several restaurants in the UK are using a legal loophole in order to get their hands on shark fins for shark fin soup. Campaigners say the restaurants are selling it on the quiet, promoting an industry that kills more than 70 million sharks a year.
The issue came to light when the Royal China Club restaurant in central London was raided, and shark fins were confiscated. The marketing manager had said in an interview with the Independent that the soup was sold off the menu. It was reported by shark charity Bite-Back, and Westminster City Council trading standards took action.
It found that the shark fin had been sent by post from Hong Kong - without passing through a UK Border inspection - which is against import laws, and so the fins were confiscated.
It's perfectly legal to import shark fins, as long as it is done through the proper channels. However, the charity has highlighted that many more restaurants are selling the dish, using meat obtained by exploiting a legal loophole. It posted details on its Facebook page highlighting that up to one in five Chinese restaurants are still serving it, some either disguising it as 'fish fin soup' or selling it to customers who request it off the menu.
The charity told the Times that many are getting hold of the meat by exploiting a legal loophole that allows people travelling to the UK to bring 20kg of shark fin in their suitcase for personal consumption. Given that 1kg can fetch £180 on the wholesale market, there is an incentive for people to bring it back and sell it on to the restaurant trade. It is calling on the government to make it illegal to bring back the fins for personal use.
The sale of the soup is also perfectly legal, but campaigners are appalled at the way the fins are obtained. In many cases they are simply cut from the sharks, which are then dropped back into the sea, where they sink to the bottom and suffocate. They are also concerned as to the scale of the killing - which they say threatens the sustainability of the shark population.
The charity has been putting pressure on individual restaurants and retailers to stop selling the soup. It is calling on anyone who spots shark fin soup on a menu to get in touch, so they can encourage the restaurant to rethink their policy.
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