The Straits Times: Outrage over posting on supplier’s webpage

FairPrice will not be selling shark fin products as of April, The Straits Times reports.

Outrage over posting on supplier’s webpage

SINGAPORE’S largest supermarket chain, FairPrice, yesterday announced that it will stop selling shark’s fin products from April this year.

The move follows an outcry over a post on the Facebook page of one of its suppliers.

The comment ‘Screw the divers’ – an apparent reference to diving enthusiasts campaigning against the shark’s fin trade – appeared on the Facebook page of Thern Da Seafood. It was announcing the launch of a new shark’s fin product at FairPrice outlets.

The post drew much criticism and went viral on the social networking site and also microblog Twitter. Many who commented called for a boycott of both the supplier and FairPrice.

Comments also made their way onto FairPrice’s Facebook page. Among them were calls for FairPrice to look again at its corporate social responsibility policy and to stop selling shark’s fin.

In a statement yesterday, FairPrice chief executive Seah Kian Peng said it would stop selling shark’s fin products by the end of the first quarter of this year.

This will be in effect across FairPrice’s more than 230 retail outlets, which include FairPrice Finest stores, FairPrice Xpress petrol stations and also its online store.

Mr Seah said FairPrice had been looking into the sale of shark’s fin products in the past few months as part of its commitment to being a socially responsible retailer. He also said it would be withdrawing all products from Thern Da Seafood.

‘We do not condone such insensitive remarks. As a standing instruction, all our suppliers are required to clear their joint promotional materials and messages with us before implementation… the supplier had not complied with our standing instruction,’ he said.

A spokesman for Thern Da Seafood said the company had been unaware of the post, which was put up in November last year, until Wednesday.

He said the post was not representative of the company’s position, and was made by a staff member tasked with managing the Facebook page, which was deactivated on Wednesday night.

The spokesman said: ‘We have immediately, upon notice of the matter, removed the comments and reprimanded the staff member. We have also dismissed and terminated the employment contract of the staff member concerned.’

In recent years, the consumption of shark’s fin – considered a delicacy in traditional Chinese culture – has been a controversial issue.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, six species of sharks are considered critically endangered.

Conservationists have also pointed out that shark’s fin, on its own, has no taste nor nutritional value.

In Singapore, imports of shark’s fin have nearly doubled since 2003 to about 2,500 tonnes in 2010, up from 1,300 tonnes about eight years ago.

The growing calls for sharks not to be eaten have prompted many companies, like upmarket Hong Kong hotel chain the Peninsula Hotel Group, to stop selling shark’s fin from Jan 1 this year.

Last September, local supermarket chain Cold Storage was the first to pull all shark’s fin products from the shelves of all its 42 outlets.

It is unclear how much shark’s fin is sold yearly by FairPrice, but one supplier said demand typically picks up during the lead-up to Chinese New Year.

Mrs Doreen Goh, who runs Yeow Seng Shark’s Fin, said yesterday that her company has supplied between 3,000kg and 4,000kg of frozen shark’s fin and 2,000 cartons of canned shark’s fin to FairPrice for sale during this Chinese New Year.

‘We are one of FairPrice’s biggest suppliers of shark’s fin, and we have not heard anything from them,’ said Mrs Goh, who was surprised to hear the news.

However, the news of FairPrice’s withdrawal of shark’s fin products was welcomed by netizens.

Within five hours of the announcement being made on the That’s My FairPrice Facebook page, it drew close to 400 ‘likes’ and more than 100 comments.

Ms Jennifer Lee, founder of Project: Fin, which aims to reduce the consumption of shark’s fin through the education of both consumers and businesses, noted that FairPrice’s move could have some impact on other businesses.

‘This may get others that still sell shark’s fin, such as restaurants, to rethink their policy,’ she said.

Going forward, Ms Lee and others like biologist Xu Qiaoling hope that supermarkets will in future stock only seafood from sustainable sources – in other words, from areas where the ecosystem is not threatened by overfishing.

Said Ms Xu: ‘FairPrice’s recent move to stock locally farmed fish was a good start, but I hope they will not stop there.’

Image taken from bryan scott photography

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