Are we FIN-ished yet?
We started the year with a question Member of Parliament Louis Ng posed on our Prime Minister: Will the public service consider a policy to avoid serving shark fin’s soup and banning it from public sector events altogether?
The answer: Agencies to decide on their menus (with no policies specific to serving of shark’s fin) according to what is “prudent” and “appropriate” for the occasion or event.
More than 70 million sharks are killed every year to feed consumers’ ravenous appetite in Singapore and around the world.
Out of which are endangered species which include the thresher and silky shark.
There is no way for us to consume sharks sustainably, which is why stopping the demand is paramount in protecting these sharks — and keeping the ocean ecosystems and other fish populations healthy.
Can you imagine a world without seafood?
In a consumer survey report we did in 2016 to protect sharks, results have it that more than three-quarters of people surveyed in Singapore want government policy to decrease consumption of shark fin. And 82% think a shark fin alternative (like double-boiled soup) at a banquet is acceptable.
The breakthrough came last year when 89 Singapore-based establishments including local favourites foodpanda, Crystal Jade and more came together to pledge against having shark’s fin in their menu.
And it’s been a full year since we’ve announced the significant commitment.
The question is: How are they doing?
For food delivery service foodpanda, they simply removed the dish from their restaurants; not replacing the dish with other fish or meat substances.
Head of Marketing for foodpanda Laura Kantor revealed that since removing shark’s fin from all their restaurants by March 2018, the number of restaurant partners on the food-delivery platform has doubled to 6,000. They have also been working closely with the restaurants to ensure that shark fin hasn’t been added to their menus.
Kantor also added, “So far, we have had nothing but positive feedback from our customers.”
Some restaurants have also taken this opportunity to experiment with other alternatives to replace the iconic traditional Chinese dish.
“Since we’ve phased out shark’s fin from our menus, our chefs have introduced creative new dishes that traditionally uses shark’s fin as a main ingredient, and they have been well-received. For example, for the upcoming Chinese New Year, bird’s nest and peach resin are used to craft festive dishes such as Braised Bird’s Nest with Crab Meat & Conpoy and Double-boiled Sea whelk Soup with Chicken & Peach Resin,” a spokesperson from Crystal Jade shared.
“The younger and environmentally-conscious customers are definitely more appreciative and supportive that we have taken this step forward and our regular customers are also very receptive to this change especially since we have other noteworthy dish recommendations for them”.
In partnership with WWF, this is part of the Hilton Hotels’ global responsible sourcing strategy towards a longer and larger commitment towards sustainable seafood. They have banned shark’s fin since 2014.
Similarly for Executive Chef Ku Keung who leads the Chinese fine dining restaurant Golden Peony in popular local wedding venue Conrad Centennial Singapore, he found purpose in being creative by cooking with other substances and techniques.
“Traditionally, shark’s fin soup is always prepared in a particular manner. However, by no longer serving shark fin, it has opened the opportunity for our chefs to cook up more meaningful and delicious dishes using different ingredients and cooking methods.”
Other premium ingredients such as lobster and bird’s nest have been used in replacement of shark’s fin. In an attempt to tease the tastebuds of the diners, the hotel has created a special duck dish paired with special plum sauce for their wedding menu.
Their Chinese New Year dishes include the peach resin with red date broth and dessert, soya pudding.
Likewise, Ramada and Days Hotels’ commitment to remove shark fin from their menus started way back in 2014 when they first opened.
“Working alongside WWF, we have garnered great awareness and customer’s support towards this initiative. Our culinary team has substituted shark fin with other premium ingredients such as bird nest, fish maw, conpoy and abalone.”
“We have also received numerous positive feedback from customers complementing the nature of this initiative and our support towards sharks protection and against shark finning. Our pledge not to consume shark’s fin dishes and to educate the public about the environmental damage caused by the shark’s fin trade are part of the nationwide and global campaign.”
Since then, local food delivery service Deliveroo has also committed to removing 150 shark fin dishes from 34 restaurants in its platform, in a public announcement released on Nov 28, 2018.
“This initiative brings the best out of everyone. It has challenged us to seek and use more sustainable ingredients, explore new ways to engage and delight our diners as well positively contributing to the environment.” explained Chef Ku Keung.
Say no to shark fin this Chinese New Year here.
Read more about how business owners can reduce plastic usage, how this hero could protect more than a million hectares of marine protected area in Palawan, and 8 things on every panda’s wish list this year.