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Shark fin and Blue Fin Tuna Banned at Official Hong Kong Government Meals

Sep 20, 2013 03:39 PM EDT

The Hong Kong government officially banned shark fin, bluefin tuna and black moss from their official dining events, a move it says will "set a good example" around the world.

Hong Kong officials were also instructed not to eat the foodstuffs if they are served at non-government banquets.

A spokesperson for the Hong Kong government told the South China Morning Post that eating shark fin, blue fin tuna and black moss - a stringy bacteria used as a vegetable, the harvest of which can damage soil for years - is widely frowned upon internationally.

Conservationists welcomed Hong Kong's move, though it came with a bit of irony, as the island nation is the capital of the world's shark fin trade. Though numbers are down from a decade ago, huge amounts of shark fin is processed in Hong Kong where it is dried, salted or preserved in brine and then re-exported to other Asian nations, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) states that of the 468 shark species, 74 are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. The IUCN also regards shark finning as inhumane.

Environmental group WWF praised Hong Kong's decision, calling the move a "bold and encouraging step" toward the conservation of sharks and bluefin tuna.

"Currently in the market we have no way to know what species of sharks are involved in the shark fin trade and we may unknowingly consume a lot of endangered species," said Gavin Edwards, Conservation Director of WWF-Hong Kong. "The government's commitment to ban shark fin from their dining tables is an excellent opportunity to improve transparency of the trade and monitoring of shark and bluefin tuna."

The Hong Kong spokesman said "the government will keep in mind local and international trends on green living in line with a sustainability-conscious lifestyle and update the list of items from time to time."

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