Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Dropping Demand

There's a serious drop in demand for shark's fin from Hong Kong to China
Shark fin isn't as popular these days thanks to public campaigns and WWF-Hong Kong says the trade in shark fins from Hong Kong to the mainland has dropped by almost 90 percent. Overall imports fell by 35 percent, compared with 2012.

Part of it is due to China's crackdown on corruption and luxury spending by officials and also environmentalists persuading people to stop eating the delicacy, and shaming commercial airlines that carry shark fin cargo.

The mainland was previously Hong Kong's largest re-export market, but now it's down to fourth place, replaced by Vietnam for the first time since 2010. Who knew Vietnam had a big market for shark's fin? Or is it an indirect way to get the shark fins to China?

In any event, Tracy Tsang Chui-chi, WWF-Hong Kong senior program director is pleased with the drop in figures cited by the government.

"We were very surprised when we saw this figure as the mainland has traditionally been Hong Kong's biggest re-export market. We do not rule out the possibility that the central government's anti-corruption measures could have played a role in the big drop in re-exports."

Fin exports to Hong Kong dropped from 8,285 tonnes in 2012 to 5,412 tonnes, their lowest level in more than a decade, the green group said.

Tsang is pushing for more, saying the Hong Kong government should be more transparent and implement a coding practice used for bluefin tuna to allow for the identification of shark species that need to be tracked.

"Scientific identification, through DNA testing of randomly selected shark fins, could also be deployed for verification purposes, Tsang said.

She also called on the government to collect and release full statistics on the shark fin trade, including species, volume and country of origin, as trade in eight shark species are now restricted under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Local shark fin traders obviously aren't happy with the plunge in numbers. Ricky Leung Lak-kee, chairman of the Hong Kong Marine Products Association says the local shark fin industry has been hit hard by the drop in demand from China.

The industry saw a 60 percent drop in shark fin import prices and a 20 to 30 percent fall in business in the past year, he said.

He rejected claims that the shark fin trade hurt the environment. Leung said two-thirds of Hong Kong's imports were from blue sharks that are not listed on CITES.

"The industry follows international law stipulated by CITES. There is a reason why it exists... I don't understand why green groups and the government keep discriminating against us," he said.

While blue sharks may not be on the list, no sharks should be killed just for their fins, plain and simple. They are necessary to keep the ocean's ecosystems running smoothly and having fewer of them is a bad sign for all of us.

It is heartening to see the demand for shark's fin drop significantly and hope the trend continues. Shark fin soup apparently dates back to the Ming Dynasty. How they thought of the idea of taking a shark's fin and making it into a culinary delicacy is bizarre, but it's a sign of wealth many cannot resist today.

Nevertheless, with greater awareness, we hope the dish may eventually be only found in history books.

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