A skylight over the pool at the Peninsula Shanghai Hotel. Shark-fin soup… (Andrew J. Loiterton )
At Peninsula Hotels, sharks stay free. In an effort to protect the species, the company recently announced that it would stop serving shark-fin soup at its hotels in Beijing and Shanghai and at its flagship Hong Kong property as well as its hotels in Beverly Hills, New York and other cities.
The parent company of Peninsula, Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd., made the announcement Nov. 21 and encouraged other hotels and restaurants to do likewise and "play a role in helping preserve the biodiversity of our oceans."
The ban goes into effect Jan. 1, though the company says it will serve the soup into the new year for banquet reservations made before the announcement.
California and Toronto recently enacted laws banning the sale and serving of shark fins, and the European Union's executive board proposed a similar ban on Nov. 21. Rosanna Xia writes in this L.A. Times article about the high cost of the cultural significance of the dish:
"Dried shark fin, the soup's main ingredient, can sell for more than $2,000 a pound in California. Originally served only to emperors, the expensive soup has become a symbol of status and wealth and a gesture of honor to respected guests."
The hotel group's action was praised by WildAid, an organization that has been touting shark protection for more than a decade. WildAid offiicials said the ban should serve as an example of the way businesses can become players in the conservation movement.
WildAid estimates that 73 million sharks a year are killed to make shark-fin soup, a practice it calls cruel and wasteful. High-profile supporters of WildAid's campaign against shark-finning include Richard Branson, basketball player Yao Ming, film director Ang Lee and chefs Wolfgang Puck, Gordon Ramsay and Mario Batali.