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High-End London Restaurant Caught Serving Illegal Shark Fins

Shark fins are a highly controversial ingredient.

Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images

An upscale Chinese restaurant in London — considered one of the best in the city by several publications — has been caught with an illegal stash of shark fins. According to the Independent, Royal China Club — where lunch costs £70 ($104 USD) per person — came under investigation after the restaurant's marketing manager Jason Chan admitted to the Independent in an interview that the restaurant sells shark fin soup and "other exotic items not listed on the menu."

The investigation found that the fins "were brought through airport customs in a suitcase" because if they were mailed over, they would have been confiscated. In the UK, serving shark fin is legal as long as it was imported through proper channels. Royal China Club has not removed the soup from its menu, but will now import the ingredient in a legal manner.

Still, there is pressure on the restaurant to stop serving shark fin — a highly controversial ingredient — altogether. There are various methods to acquire a shark fin. One requires fishermen to cut off a shark's fin while the animal is still alive and toss the rest of the living body back into the ocean. The de-finned sharks then sink to the bottom of the ocean and die of suffocation. The Independent writes that over the last few years, "a third of the restaurants [in the UK] who previously offered shark fins have removed it from menus," thanks in part to pressure from animal rights groups. Shouty chef Gordon Ramsay is also a vocal opponent of shark fins and American Airlines announced this year that it had stopped shipping shark fins March 4.