British authorities have seized illegally imported shark fins from an upmarket Chinese restaurant in London and destroyed them.
The raid on Royal China Club in London’s West End, where lunch costs about 70 pound (US$104) a head, followed revelations in January by its marketing manager that it was selling shark fin soup, The Independent reported Tuesday.
These triggered an investigation by the Westminster City Council.
Royal China marketing manager Jason Chan told the newspaper in January that the restaurant was selling shark fin soup, alongside other exotic items not on the menu.
Chan said many of the ingredients were brought through airport customs in suitcases because “if they were sent over, they’d get confiscated”.
The comments sparked complaints to the local council from marine conservation charity Bite-Back. Subsequent inquiries found the shark fins were being sent by post from Hong Kong in contravention of British import laws.
“The parallels between the trade in ivory and shark fins are huge and the fact that the Royal China Club has now been caught illegally importing fins to the UK is a further evidence of the corrupt industry behind this controversial menu item,” Graham Buckingham, campaign director at Bite-Back, said.
Chan had boasted of a range of rare off-menu items, including abalone and sea cucumber, and an increasing demand for them fueled by wealthy Chinese tourists. A set menu could cost diners 2,800 pounds a head, he said.
Royal China Club has not removed the soup from its menu but now must import it through legal channels.
Shark fin — and all the other ingredients offered by the Royal China Club — is legal if imported properly, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
However, there is growing pressure for restaurants in the Britain to remove the ingredient from their menus.
In recent years, a third of restaurants which previously offered shark fins have removed it from menus.
Paul Keung, manager of the Royal China restaurant, appeared with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay in a 2013 documentary which criticised the use of shark fin.
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