Marina Bay Sands strikes shark's fin off the menu

Lim Yan Liang The Straits Times AsiaOne 14 Jun 14;

SINGAPORE - Joining a growing list of businesses which have stopped selling shark's fin, integrated resort Marina Bay Sands (MBS) yesterday announced that restaurants it owns and operates will cease selling the controversial dish.

The Sands Expo and Convention Centre - the largest space of its kind in Singapore, which hosted 70 trade shows last year - will also take it off its menus.

The integrated resort joins supermarket chains like NTUC FairPrice and Cold Storage, hotels including Shangri-La and Swissotel The Stamford and restaurants such as Szechuan Court and Xi Yan, which have already stopped offering shark's fin products.

Singapore is second only to Hong Kong in the global trade of shark's fin, according to figures from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. It is also one of the largest consumers of fins per capita.

According to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, Singapore imported some 2,700 tonnes of shark's fin each in 2012 and last year. About 2,300 tonnes were exported in 2012, and 2,600 tonnes were exported last year.

Shark finning often involves separating a live shark from its fin. Fishermen may keep only the fin to save space on a boat as the meat is less valuable, throwing the dying shark back in the sea.

The Mice - meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions - industry represents a large customer base for seafood here because of the size of the events they organise, said Mr Yio Jin Xian, 30, a member of the Marine and Land Products Association.

"They are a big customer, definitely bigger than any single hotel or restaurant chain," he said.

Striking shark's fin off the menu at its wholly owned restaurants is proof that MBS is committed to reducing its environment impact, said Mr Kevin Teng, its director of sustainability.

"Rise restaurant and all our celebrity chef restaurants such as Sky on 57 join our banquet and Mice operations in not offering shark fin dishes to guests," said Mr Teng, though "a small number" of pre-October 2013 banquet agreements with shark's fin will still be honoured.

MBS said that, in the last two years, its restaurants and banquets used about 154kg of fins every month.

Mr Teng added that MBS will work with tenant restaurants like Imperial Treasure, Yu Cuisine, Jin Shan and Beijing No. 1 to encourage sustainable practices such as reducing food waste and removing shark's fin from menus.

"We have the unique opportunity to inspire and influence our customers and partners to adopt sustainable practices," said Mr Teng.

Animal rights groups backed the move and hoped that other restaurants and hotels would follow suit.

"Sharks are a crucial part of marine ecosystems and their populations have a direct impact on fish stocks, which in turn affects many things, including our food security in the future," said Ms Elaine Tan, chief executive of World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore. "We commend Marina Bay Sands for leading the way, given its iconic status in Singapore."

Mr Jonn Lu of advocacy group Shark Savers hopes the move is a "hard ban" on shark's fin dishes.

"Some restaurant groups and hotels here have removed shark's fin from their menus, but it's still available on demand," he said. "When we send people undercover or to do cold calls, they'd invariably say they have this option - just that its off-menu."