Sunday, 15 September 2013

Fin-ally Progress on the Shark Front

Hundreds of shark fins drying on a rooftop in Hong Kong's Western district
Finally! The Hong Kong government is finally moving with the times and on Friday decided to stop serving shark fin to show the authorities are "determined to take the lead and set a good example on this front", a government statement said.

It adds the initiative goes "beyond the minimum expectation laid down" in the United Nations treaty that governs the shark fin trade. The ban also applies to blue fin tuna and black sea moss, or fat choy.

"The exclusion of these... items from official menus is a start and also serves as an example of raising public education and awareness on sustainability," a government spokesman said in a press release.

The ban is the result of years of lobbying by conservation groups, who say up to 50 percent of the shark fin trade goes through Hong Kong. Scientists believe some 100 million sharks are killed every year for their fins.

Many Chinese do not know that once the fin is harvested, it will not grow back, and when the finless shark is thrown back into the water, it does a long painful death because it cannot swim properly without its fin.

The infamous shark fin soup
However there is now growing awareness in Hong Kong, with wedding couples insisting on not serving shark fin at their banquets, while airline carriers are shamed if they carry it as cargo. Meanwhile in China the ongoing clamp down on luxurious official dining has resulted in the plunge of shark fin orders from restaurants.

China actually took the lead on sharks fin before Hong Kong -- announcing last year that shark fin would be taken off official banquet menus, though it is believed it will take three years to really take hold.

Nevertheless, the mainland beat Hong Kong on this one, but rather late than never.

With regards to sea moss, we are surprised to hear the over-harvesting of the algae has led to desertification in part of northern China. So much for eating something that was considered a lucky food particularly during Chinese New Year and also supposedly good for colonic health.

In addition to the ban, Hong Kong officials are expected to take the lead and not even eat shark fin when served to them at non-government functions.

With this ban sharks can breathe a bit easier and hopefully their populations will grow again and continue to play a role in the sustainability of ocean life.

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