China Bans Shark Fins At State Dinners (To Save Money)

The Chinese government has banned the serving of shark fins, along with other wild animal products, at official state functions -- a move being hailed as a major step towards curbing the nation's environmentally unsustainable appetite for the popular cuisine.

An estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year to satisfy China's demand for the shark fin soup, a leading factor contributing to the dramatic decline of several shark species.

Alex Hofford, director of conservationist group MyOcean, calls the decision "hugely significant", telling the South China Morning Post:

"It's a commendable decision and a brave one that the Chinese government has taken. It's going to have a great impact on society, because what the government does shows leadership in society and then the corporate sector will quickly follow suit.

"From a cultural point of view, it's pretty important that they... recognize how outdated traditions can be left by the wayside eventually like footbinding and slavery - why not shark fins?"

While this ban on shark fins is considered a win for the environment, the Chinese government's reasoning for it stops short of condemning the dish itself as harmful. Instead, the move is said to be part of a crackdown on overspending at official functions, where shark fin soup has traditionally been served as a symbol of wealth and status.

For Hofford, the rationale behind the ban is less important than the fact that one exists at all.

"It doesn't really matter if it is for environmental (reasons) or for curbing official extravagance, as long as the job gets done," he said.