Louis Ng, MP for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency, is pushing for a ban on serving shark’s fin dishes at public service events, just before the onset of celebrations for Chinese New Year. Ng has good reason to do so, as sharks are being quickly pushed to the brink of extinction.
In Parliament this week, Ng submitted a question asking if shark’s fin is still served and will continue to be served in public events in the future. He was answered by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, who told him in a written response that while the government has no policies specific to the serving of shark’s fin, its agencies serve what is “prudent and appropriate for the occasion” and follow principles of procurement based on fairness, transparency, and value-for-money.
Ng told Today that following these principles means not serving shark’s fin dishes at all. “Shark’s fin is really neither fair, transparent nor value for money. It’s definitely not fair to the sharks and our marine ecosystem, and even to us, because those who already avoid eating shark’s fin have no say in the menu at such events.”
Furthermore, Ng pointed out the many questionable practices in the shark’s fin trade. “You really don’t know if you are eating shark’s fin from a protected species,” he said, pointing out that this makes transparency impossible.
Finally, he also brought up the high cost of the delicacy. “And lastly, it’s not value-for-money because it’s so expensive.”
Mentioning that many organizations are now refusing to serve shark’s fin dishes, he said, “as the biggest employer in Singapore, the public service should also stop this practice. It is the right thing to do.”
The National Parks Board (NParks) told Today that shark’s fin is no longer served in their activities. Francis Lim, group director for corporate services, says that this is part of NParks’ push for environmental responsibility and awareness.
“Some of our initiatives include using energy-efficient lights, reducing the need for hardcopy documents, minimizing the use of backdrops, as well as using corn ware, instead of plastic or styrofoam, when non-disposable cutlery and plates are unavailable. We have also stopped offering plastic bottled water at our events. Like other public agencies, NParks also exercises prudence when deciding on event menus, and this includes not serving shark’s fin.”
Many eateries around the country have also stopped serving shark’s fin, such as Crystal Jade and Pan Pacific Hotels.
Ng, who ran animal welfare group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) before he ran for public office, believes that people’s perspectives regarding the matter can change. “I do believe that the expectations have changed — from expecting that shark’s fin will be served at certain events, to expecting that shark’s fin will not be served at such events. Many Singaporeans, particularly the young people, would support a standard policy of not serving shark’s fin.”
A 2016 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) survey revealed that 75 percent of Singaporeans want government policy to curb shark fin consumption. In 2017, another WWF study showed that Singapore is the world’s second-largest market for shark’s fin. Environmental activists say that 8,000 sharks are killed per hour, which has meant a 98 percent reduction in their populations in the last 15 years. Thirty species are now on the edge of extinction.