Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Killing the Shark Fin Trade

Shark fin soup is a delicacy that will be even harder to find in Hong Kong

Finally Cathay Pacific and Dragon Air have banned shark fin shipments on their airlines with immediate effect.

This comes after years of activists shaming the airlines to stop carrying them, most recently a few weeks ago with the conservationists dressed up as sharks and hanging around the Cathay check-in area.

Cathay Pacific caved to pressure by finally banning shark fin
They did this after Cathay claimed it would not impose an outright ban, but instead set up a panel of experts to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the shipments were from a sustainable source.

How can one find sustainable sharks? Farming them just for their fins seems even more inhumane.

And how can you decide on a case-by-case basis? The proposal just sounded completely daft. Sitting on the fence just gave the wrong image for Cathay.

Meanwhile the pressure was raised a notch when HK Express became the first local airline to ban shark fin shipments last month which was a bold move that won lots of praise from the public.

Three dozen other airlines, including British Airways, American Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Emirates, have also banned carrying shark fin on their shipments, making it harder for those in the business to carry on their trade in Hong Kong.

Hundreds of fins found drying on a rooftop in Hong Kong
According to government statistics, shark fin imports to Hong Kong fell by 42 percent between 2010 and 2015 to 5,717 tonnes. In the same period there was also a plunge of 72 percent drop in imports by air to 450 tonnes.

Thanks to massive public awareness campaigns, many Hong Kong diners shun eating shark fin soup, though many high end restaurants still have it listed discreetly on the menu, or it's an off-the-menu item.

If anyone orders it in Hong Kong, it's usually mainlanders who don't seem to have any environmental concerns about eating the fin of an animal.

But now even these customers are few and far between with Xi Jinping's ongoing corruption crackdown, leading to a slowing down of the economy both in China and Hong Kong.

Shops in Sheung Wan selling shark fin will disappear
And now with even fewer transport options for importers and exporters to trade in shark fin in the city, the number of these shops in Sheung Wan will disappear eventually. This will probably drive up the price of shark fin, and will people still want to pay that much to eat it?

Some purists argue that shark fin soup should still be on the menu to keep the culinary tradition alive. But food is an ever-evolving culture, and it's time to let shark fin go.

While eating it might increase your intake of cartilage, it'll definitely raise the level of mercury in your body.

And is that worth it?

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