Beijing, July 3 (IANS) Shark fin soup, considered a delicacy and a social status symbol in China, may no longer be served at official banquets as Beijing plans to issue new guidelines banning the seafood in an attempt to protect the endangered marine creature.
According to wildlife conservation organization WildAid, up to 70 million sharks are slain annually for their fins, which has put at least 17 percent of known species of shark and manta on the verge of extinction, Xinhua reported.
The group said China and Hong Kong have been among the biggest importers of shark fin for years, and so far, there has been no legislation in China banning the practice.
A proposal to ban shark fin items was made at the National People's Congress or parliament in March 2011. A total of 31 members proposed the ban through legislation of shark-fin trading in order to protect marine resources.
The new guideline will be issued by the Government Offices Administration of the State Council (GOASC), the CNTV.cn news website reported.
According to campaign group Hong Kong Shark Foundation, between 26 million and 73 million sharks are estimated to be killed each year. The World Wildlife Fund says 181 species of shark are under threat, up from 15 in 1996, CNN reported.
An official with the Chinese council said the guidelines would instruct government agencies at all levels to stop serving the delicacy at official events.
However, it may take at least one to three years to issue the guidelines, he said.
Animal welfare organisations have welcomed the move.
The Humane Society International (HSI) said the news "marks a watershed moment for the global movement to protect sharks and pushes China onto the world's stage as an emerging leader in shark conservation".