Protesters wearing shark costumes with the fins cut off have surrounded a famous restaurant near Hong Kong harbor as part of a campaign to demand that it stop selling shark fins.
Protesters shouted and held up placards as they approached the Maxims Palace in Chinese territory, half-held by a unit of the Jardine Matheson Group conglomerate and filled with people eating dim sum, but police prevented them from entering.
“Stop selling,” chanted the group of around 70 adults and children, some of them holding up signs that read, “Maxims, stop selling endangered shark fins ‘on demand’. “
Protesters said they wanted all fins, but especially those of endangered species like the whale shark, to be taken off the menu.
Ricky Leung, chairman of the Hong Kong Marine Products Association and who also runs a dried seafood business, said activists were attacking Chinese culture, which has consumed shark fins for more than 500 years.
“Hong Kong importers are pretty honest about endangered shark fins,” Leung said.
Jardines, which operates in industries ranging from luxury hotels to mining and transportation, controls Dairy Farm International Holdings, which owns a 50 percent stake in restaurant Maxims.
Maxims denies the allegations of a group of activists
In an email, Maxims said it has more than halved the volume of shark fins sold in its restaurants over the past six years and has only sold products of the blue shark species.
Protest organizer WildAid, a conservation group, posted a clip online showing Maxims arranging whale shark or basking shark fins for a 200-person banquet.
The clip could not be independently verified.
The comments in the clip were false, Maxims said in his email statement, adding that it does not offer products derived from endangered species.
There has been an almost 40 percent reduction in shark fins entering the former British colony over the past five years, but the illegal supply has recently exploded.
Government fin seizures have exceeded 1,400 kilograms this year, according to official data.
Hong Kong allows shark fin imports, but species listed by the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species require a permit.
With more than 70 million sharks killed each year, more than a quarter of the species have gone extinct, according to WWF.