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Hotels Lobbied to Shun Shark's Fin

Environmentalists plan to hold talks with Hong Kong's leading hoteliers to lobby for the removal of shark's fin from their menus after the success of a campaign that persuaded Disney to reverse its decision to serve the dish at its new theme park, the South China Morning Post reported on Sunday.

Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Hong Kong was also seeking talks with a shark's fin traders association at the start of what it saw as a long drive to build momentum from Disney's climb down, the newspaper said.

After weeks of pressure from environmental groups, Disney announced in late June that it would not serve shark's fin at its theme park hotel, which is due to open in September.

WWF chief executive Eric Bohm conceded that Disney's move, although symbolically important, was not likely to decrease the massive amount of shark's fin that was imported into Hong Kong for consumption.

Up to 40 million sharks a year are harvested for their fins worldwide, most of which pass through Hong Kong, according to the report.

"We will approach the traders association and start talking to them," said Bohm, "then we will go to the Hong Kong Hotels Association."

Bohm said they needed to find out what the impact on hotels would be. But he would imagine the impact on profit would probably be steep because shark's fin is expensive.

While Hong Kong's five-star hotels have so far insisted they will not take shark's fin off their menus, JW Marriott has agreed to examine ways of making diners think twice before ordering the dish.

"One of the suggestions I have made is that if customers order it, they should make a donation towards a conservation fund," said Therese Necio-Ortega, Marriot's director of communications, told the newspaper.

"At the end of the day, we respect culture, but we also have to respect nature because that affects all of us," she said, whilst adding that there were no immediate plans to take shark's fin off the hotel's menu.

Some environmentalists believe the harvesting of shark's fin is wasteful and cruel, but supporters maintain that its consumption is a part of local culture that should be respected and that the rest of the fish can be utilized.

(Shenzhen Daily/Agencies July 5, 2005)

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