Restaurateur takes shark fin off menu

Last updated 05:00 19/07/2011
Chris Cheng
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE
BLOTTED OUT: Cheng's Chinese Restaurant proprietor Chris Cheng crosses out the reference to shark fin soup on the Timaru restaurant's menu.

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A Timaru restaurant placed on an internet "roll of shame" for serving shark fin soup has not served the real thing for 10 years.

The Australian Anti Shark Finning Alliance (TAASFA) has added a New Zealand "wall of shame" to its website, listing 10 New Zealand restaurants, including Cheng's Chinese Restaurant, which it states sell shark fin products, and therefore are the reason shark finning takes place.

"Without demand for shark fin, 200,000 sharks would not be slaughtered every single day," the Australian website states. "These restaurants and businesses see fit to be part of an industry that, on majority, hacks the fins off live sharks, tossing the still living, finless shark back into the ocean like rubbish to die a slow, painful death."

The first proprietor Chris Cheng knew his business was on the wall of shame was when he received two emails from TAASFA – one in English and the other in Chinese – on Sunday.

He immediately removed the entry for crab meat and shark fin soup from the menu on the restaurant's website, but admitted it still appears on printed menus. In spite of that, Mr Cheng said he had not bought genuine shark fins for about 10 years and it was several years since he had purchased the artificial substitute.

Asked why then the soup still appeared on the menu at $7 a bowl, Mr Cheng said he had simply never got around to changing the printed menu, explaining it was a substantial document. He had stopped using genuine shark fins because of the public attitude towards the shark finning practice.

"It is horrible," he said.

For several years he used an artificial substitute, but he has not even used that for several years.

He personally did not like shark fin soup, explaining the shark fins had no taste unless they were boiled down to become a very concentrated stock.

Even though shark fins were high in protein, not many customers had ever asked for the soup.

Mr Cheng was surprised that a restaurant in a town the size of Timaru would have come to the attention of the Australian group, but suspected they had simply come across his restaurant when checking out the online menus of Chinese restaurants.

In spite of ending up on the group's wall of shame, Mr Cheng has no animosity towards TAASFA. He is confident the restaurant's name will be removed when TAASFA personnel check his online menus and find the offending soup has been removed.

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As to the aim of the organisation – stopping the finning practice – Mr Cheng fully supports them.

TIMELINE

An estimated 73 million sharks are finned alive every years – about 200,000 every day, according to The Australian Anti Shark Finning Alliance (TAASFA).

Finning live sharks is illegal in New Zealand under the Animal Welfare Act, but if the shark is dead it is legal.

On average, 24,000 tonnes of shark are caught each year in New Zealand according to Ministry of Fisheries figures.

Most of the shark species landed in New Zealand are used for their meat, but to avoid waste, the fins of some species are used.

Seven per cent of all sharks landed in New Zealand are taken just for their fins, according to MAF data.

A further 1 per cent are taken just for their livers to extract liver oil.

- The Timaru Herald

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