Posts Tagged ‘Hong Kong and shark fins’

Shark Finning Decline?

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Probably everyone knows the sad state of the world’s sharks, and that the indefensible shark fin trade is largely responsible. Just Google shark fin or shark fin statistics – the grim pictures are overwhelming.

Many shark species are considered to be threatened, vulnerable to extinction (slidepoint.net)

Many shark species are considered to be threatened, vulnerable to extinction (slidepoint.net)

Trader in Hong Kong drying shark fins outside his seafood store (scmp.com)

Trader in Hong Kong drying shark fins outside his seafood store (scmp.com)

Shark fin soup may cost $175 (made from dried shark fins that may$700/lb) is another luxury food that became an essential component of any formal Chinese feast, especially weddings, not only in China but in Chinese communities in cities around the world.

Hong Kong is the distribution hub, with half of all total shark fins imported from legal and illegal fisheries everywhere. Because of the unusual cruelty of the fishery, and because so many shark species have declined to dangerously low levels, the criticism of the fishery has become intense.

Shark fins are sent from around the world to Hong Kong for further distribution (kleanindustreis.com

Shark fins are sent from around the world to Hong Kong for further distribution (kleanindustreis.com

Buying and selling shark fins is now illegal in a cluster of US states, mostly west coast. Activists in China have worked hard to discourage the use of shark fin soup, but efforts to reduce the extent of global shark finning seemed to be getting nowhere. The total catch of sharks continued to grow, reaching more than 1.4 million tons in 2010, representing around 100 million sharks per year.

 The total catch of sharks has risen precipitously since 1950 (commons.wikimedia.com).


The total catch of sharks has risen precipitously since 1950 (commons.wikimedia.com0.

But now something has changed. Demand for shark fins in China declined by 75% in 2012 from the previous year, and reports for 2013 indicate a further steep decline.

In a world of seemingly endless bad news, this is good news indeed.

The shark fin traders in Honk Kong are of course upset by the public criticism – enough that many have moved to drying the fins on roof tops where they are not so easily seen by the public.

Activist on a roof-top covered with drying shark fins, hidden from public scrutiny (mission-blue.org)

Activist on a roof top covered with drying shark fins, hidden from public scrutiny (mission-blue.org)

This is reassuring for so many reasons. We may not drive so many shark species to extinction after all. We may cease the horrible practice of cutting off the fins and throwing the remaining huge and often still living body back into the sea.

And we can show ourselves that habits thought to be culturally engrained can change. With enough information, enough evidence, we can stop doing something we should not be doing, and look for less damaging alternatives.

If all this is real, and it seems to be, imagine what other attitudes and beliefs we can change when we have strong evidence before us!