Dozens of animal activists gathered at Maxim’s Caterers’ Lai Chi Kok headquarters on Friday in protest of their continued use of shark fin at their restaurants.

Photo: WildAid Hong Kong.

The company closed the main entrance to their building, with protesters accusing them of redirecting their employees to another exit as to avoid the scene.

Photo: WildAid Hong Kong.

The demonstration came after NGO WildAid accused the company of selling shark fin dishes under a secret “Premium” menu, despite stating last year that they had “completely phased out” its sale from their restaurants.

“When the buying stops, the killing can too,” activists chanted, with some younger attendees wearing shark outfits.

Photo: PH Yang.

Shark fin is a popular dish on banquet menus in Hong Kong. But high demand from customers has threatened the species with extinction.

Maxim’s has more than 50 restaurant outlets in the city, and is the licence holder for local branches of Starbucks, who have come under fire for their relationship with the catering firm.

Photo: WildAid Hong Kong.

Douglas Woodring, founder of NGO Ocean Recovery Alliance, said that firms like Starbucks were also being targeted because of their affiliation with Maxim’s: “This is an interesting example of large multinationals who have foreign bases, who are trying to do CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] and social, responsible business. But now they’re realising you have to look into their supply chain or partner network.”

‘Upon request’ 

Maxim’s told HKFP on Monday that they will continue to sell shark fin dishes upon request: “[W]e respect our customers’ needs while taking environmental factor into consideration, and through such balance we can continue to provide a diverse and quality catering service.”

Photo: WildAid Hong Kong.

However organiser of the rally, Alex Hofford, told HKFP: “There is no such thing as sustainable shark fin. Maxim’s have stated publicly that they take care on sustainable sourcing. Well, that’s not true… They’ve got no oversight whatsoever and they just treat the planet like it’s theirs for the taking.”

Photo: WildAid Hong Kong.

Maxim’s added that it only uses shark fins from Blue Sharks, which they say are a “Lower Risk – Near Threatened” species on the IUCN Red List, and conduct independent DNA testing to verify the species of shark sourced.

However protesters said that they did not accept the response. Attending Friday’s rally, one activist – Adeline – told HKFP: “That data was actually only updated 15 years ago. Can you imagine how many shark fins we have consumed in the past 15 years?”

Another protester, Kay, said: “It will become endangered one day if we keep consuming them. This does not justify what they do.”

In April, WildAid took aim at the Shake Shack burger joint over its partnership with Maxim’s.

Jennifer Creery

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.