The Hong Kong government has refused requests from environmentalists to follow Disneyland's example by taking shark's fin soup off the official banquet menu for visiting dignitaries.
Green group, the Friends of Hoi Ha, wrote last month to Secretary for Environment, Transport and Works Sarah Liao Sau-tung seeking an assurance that the government would not allow shark's fin soup to be served at its banquets.
The appeal is backed by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Hong Kong, which wants the government to help set an example after Disney bowed to pressure from environmentalists and removed the dish from banquet menus at its theme park hotel.
WWF Hong Kong chief executive Eric Bohm said: "We feel that until such time as there is a sustainable and certifiable source of shark's fin, it should be removed from government banquet menus because sharks are coming under increasing threat."
However, a spokeswoman for Liao said the government would not impose a ban, saying sharks were not listed as an endangered species.
It is not known how often shark's fin is served at government banquets but green groups believe the dish has been made available in the past.
Asked how often the dish was served, Liao's spokeswoman said: "I don't have the figures … It is up to individual departments. I don't think shark's fin is a must at banquets. It really depends on your guests and what you think you should serve. I don't think shark's fin is always on the menu, but I can't tell you that it has never been served."
Asked whether the government was considering following Disney's lead she said: "We can't give such an undertaking. Other people are against eating tuna. It is a question of a difference of culture. It is very difficult for us to ban something when there is no consensus in the community, to ban something which is not illegal according to international conventions."
Friends of Hoi Ha spokesman David Newbery said that while the dish might be legal, it was unregulated and there was no way of sourcing fin to ensure it came from non-threatened species.
Green groups said that because of the high price of shark's fin, the practice of "finning," where fins were cut off and the fish thrown back into the water to die, was widespread
(Shenzhen Daily/Agencies July 25, 2005)