Restaurateurs in Chinatown have promised to urge the Thai government to pass a law banning the practice of shark finning, provided international conservation group WildAid abandon its campaign.

Shark fin soup will still be served in restaurants, stressed Adul Laohaphol, a representative of the business owners, but “we are also against the cruel finning process”.

The restaurateurs are anxious to improve their industry’s image after WildAid’s campaign prompted sales of shark fin soup to plummet by between 40-70%.

The campaign focused on test results of shark fins purchased from Chinatown shops by WildAid. The tests detected high levels of mercury in seven out of ten samples and have been at the centre of a debate during which the Thai Food and Drug Administration conducted its own tests at the Medical Science Department.

Last week, Pakdee Pothisiri, director-general of the department, said that mercury contamination existed but was well within safety standards. FDA secretary-general Dr Wichai Chokeviwat said however that the agency was not yet ready to make an official statement “because of wide disparity between WildAid’s and our samples […] we need indisputable evidence”.

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Steven Galster, co-director of WildAid-Asia, responded by urging the FDA to make a statement about the tolerance level of mercury intake to consumers and particularly to pregnant women, because mercury could harm foetuses.

After a meeting between Galster and Wichai on Tuesday the FDA has now apparently agreed that pregnant mothers should not eat shark-fin soup. Galster revealed: “The FDA admitted that it has information supporting the risk to pregnant mothers consuming the soup, as WildAid previously told the public.”
Galster’s message to Chinatown remained unequivocal meanwhile, as he told restaurateurs that WildAid will continue with its campaign until shark fin soup is taken off the menu.

Three more WildAid campaign advertisements are waiting to be published in Thai, Chinese and English-language newspapers in Thailand.