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Hong Kong Bans Shark Fin From Official Banquets

Hong Kong Bans Shark Fin From Official Banquets


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Bluefin tuna and black moss also banned

Wikimedia/Zafer Kizilkaya

The Hong Kong government announced Friday that it was banning shark fin soup from menus at official banquets.

Shark fin soup is off the menu for officials in Hong Kong, as the government has officially banned the controversial delicacy from all official functions and prohibited its employees from eating it on their own time.

Shark fin soup has been widely condemned by environmental groups, as many sharks are threatened species and the "finning" process — in which live sharks are caught and their fins cut off, then the sharks are thrown back in the ocean to die — is cruel.

According to the New York Times, the Hong Kong government said it was taking action in the interest of green living and following sustainability trends. In a statement, the government said it was “determined to take the lead and set a good example on this front.”

The ban also includes bluefin tuna, which is a threatened species, and black moss, a type of algae that is popular in Asian cuisine but has been over-harvested in Mongolia, leading to increased desertification.

About half of the shark fin trade goes through Hong Kong at some point, with most of the fins headed for the Chinese mainland.

Consumption of shark fins is down on the Chinese mainland as well. According to Shanghaiist, consumption of shark fins has dropped 70 percent since the end of last year, when China declared a ban on shark fin soup at official banquets. The decreased demand has caused a drastic reduction in the number of poachers and shark fin traffickers, which scientists say has resulted in a growing shark population.


China Bans Shark Fin Soup From Official Banquets

China has banned shark fin soup and bird&rsquos nest soup from official banquets, a move that&rsquos meant to cut back on extravagances in government spending but that could have significant environmental benefits.

The ban is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping&rsquos crack-down on corruption and lavish spending in the Chinese government, and also stipulates that cigarettes and expensive liquors are prohibited from official dinners. But the ban on shark fin soup, in particular, comes a year after the country pledged to ban the soup from official banquets and after several years of outcry from within China and throughout the world over the cruelty and grave environmental consequences of the dish.

&ldquoIt&rsquos a commendable decision and a brave one that the Chinese government has taken,&rdquo Alex Hofford, executive director of Hong Kong-based MyOcean, told Agence France-Presse. &ldquoIt&rsquos going to have a great impact on society, because what the government does shows leadership in society and then the corporate sector will quickly follow suit.&rdquo

According to conservation group WildAid, up to 73 million sharks are killed each year solely so that their fins can be sold for shark fin soup, 95 percent of which is consumed in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. As recently as 2006, as the Washington Post reports, many Chinese citizens didn&rsquot even know the soup came from sharks &mdash󈐸 percent, according to one poll, were unaware of the origin of the soup&rsquos key ingredient.

But after WildAid launched a campaign in the country against the soup, using celebrities such as Chinese professional basketball player Yao Ming to speak out against the harm the soup causes shark populations and the oceans overall, the tide began turning in China. In January 2012, luxury hotel chain Shangri-La Asia announced it would ban shark fin soup from all 72 of its hotels. Several high-end restaurants and hotels have followed suit, and in September, Hong Kong announced a ban on shark fin soup (as well as the increasingly rare bluefin tuna and black moss) at government functions.

Far from all restaurants and hotels in China have banned the soup, but overall demand has dropped off in recent years. This is good news for sharks, whose populations have been decimated by the shark finning trade, a fishing practice that is considered one of the cruelest and most wasteful, as fins are often cut off from live sharks, who are then thrown back into the ocean to die. Some shark populations have declined by 98 percent in the last 15 years due to finning, and all 14 species most commonly caught for their fins are now at risk of extinction. As a top marine predator, their drastic drops in numbers put considerable stress on an ocean ecosystem already at major risk from acidification and over-fishing.


Shark fin soup disappearing from the menu at Chinese weddings

A fisheries worker carries shark heads in Zhejiang province in China. Shark fin soup has long been considered a delicacy by Chinese people, but that could be changing. Photograph: Chinafotopress/Getty Images

A fisheries worker carries shark heads in Zhejiang province in China. Shark fin soup has long been considered a delicacy by Chinese people, but that could be changing. Photograph: Chinafotopress/Getty Images

Chinese couples who have chosen Friday – 11/11/11 – one of the most auspicious days of the year to exchange their wedding vows, could be among the last to mark the occasion by feasting on shark fin soup, if environmental groups get their way.

As the wedding parties scoop pieces of the slippery, glutinous flesh from bowls of broth, they will not just be respecting tradition they will also be defying a growing campaign to ban the trade in shark fin that has now spread to its most lucrative market, Hong Kong.

It is easy to see during a short walk through Sheung Wan, a Hong Kong neighbourhood specialising in dried seafood, why the campaign to ban the trade worldwide has set its sights on the city.

Shark fins fill shop windows, ready to be hydrated and boiled before being added to a rich broth, a gastronomic preserve of wealthy Chinese since the Song Dynasty in the 10th century.

Rising prosperity since the 1970s has made the delicacy affordable to the middle classes, first in Hong Kong and now on the mainland. Eating it is so closely associated with new wealth that to say someone is "eating shark fin with rice" is to refer to their prosperity.

Hong Kong handles as much as 80% of the global trade in shark fins, bringing in catches from more than 100 countries, with Spain by far its biggest supplier.

In 2006 it took delivery of more than 10,000 tonnes worth $276m (£173m), according to the UN food and agricultural organisation. Most is consumed in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but also in mainland provinces such as Guangdong.

Campaigners say it is next to impossible to verify the fins' provenance, as they are dried and bleached, and often treated with ammonia, before reaching Hong Kong.

"The catches are not tracked at all, and there is no species monitoring or labelling," says Stanley Shea, a campaigner with the marine environment group Bloom Association, which last year conducted the most comprehensive survey to date of shark fin consumption in Hong Kong.

"We don't even know how much of it is eaten here or ends up in mainland China."

Many shark populations have plummeted by 90% in recent decades, according to campaigners, who warn that if over-fishing continues at the current rate, the most commonly targeted species will be extinct in a few years.

DNA analysis showed that 40% of shark fin auctioned in Hong Kong comes from 14 species, all of which appear on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's "red list" of endangered species.

After years of fierce opposition from traders and retailers, campaigners in Hong Kong say the local population is finally waking up to the ecological catastrophe.

Several hotels offer discounts, cheaper room rates and other incentives for couples that choose not to serve shark fin at their wedding celebrations.

One online campaign calls on wedding guests to reduce cash gifts by about a third for couples who select the dish.

Last year campaigners persuaded Citibank Hong Kong to withdraw a promotion offering new credit card holders discount on a shark fin dinner.

On the mainland Yao Ming, the Chinese NBA star, has appeared in a well-received campaign to end finning, the practice of removing a shark's highly valued fins and dumping what is left into the sea.

But there are pockets of resistance, particularly among older people, who still regard eating shark fin as a means of expressing their Chinese identity.

"At weddings you have different people sitting around the same table," says Shea. "Young people understand the problem and want to do something about it, but at some point their parents stop them."

The manager of one Sheung Wan wholesaler, who asked not to be named, said traders were beginning to feel the impact of the environmental campaign.

"Sales are dropping and I think that is down to the campaign," he said. The manager's firm sells between three and four tonnes of shark fin a month.

"The wholesale price has dropped by about 20% over the past two months, although there are always fluctuations so it's too early to tell if this is a lasting trend."

Charlie Lim, a shark fin trader, is receptive to the message on sustainable fishing but accuses some campaigners of hypocrisy.

"The Chinese tradition of eating shark fin will be maintained, but will increasingly come from sustainable fisheries," says Lim, a prominent member of Hong Kong's marine products association.

"Chinese people and traditions do make an easy and readily identifiable target for largely western campaigners.

"But many western campaigners who are seriously interested in promoting the sustainable use of sharks should look more closely at their home fisheries and the 'boneless' fish products that their children may be eating from the supermarket."

Despite its early successes, the campaign has yet to challenge shark fin's place at the heart of Cantonese cuisine.

Bloom's 2010 survey revealed that 89% of the territory's 7 million people had eaten the dish at least once in the past year, with more than half saying they did so to observe tradition. Another poll found that only 5% of couples had opted for shark-free wedding banquets.

But 66% said they were uncomfortable with the idea of eating an endangered species, and more than three-quarters said they would not mind if it was removed from banquet menus.

Shea believes Hong Kong will be viewed as a pariah as long as it fails to introduce measures to protect shark populations similar to those introduced elsewhere.

"Hong Kong has always been a role model for the rest of China, and this issue should be no different," he says.

"Our message is that eating shark fin is unsustainable. At some point, the market is going to crash."


Hong Kong Imported 10 Million Kilograms of Shark Fins Last Year

The appearance of a shark fin piercing the ocean surface is often seen as a sign of danger to humans. Even more dangerous to sharks is the sight of a shark fin floating in a bowl of soup.

Around the world, sharks are in crisis. Many species have suffered population declines of 90 to 99 percent in recent decades, mostly to feed the seemingly endless demand for the tasteless concoction known as shark fin soup, which is served to mark important occasions such as weddings and business deals in China and some other Asian communities. An astonishing 10.3 million kilograms of shark fins and shark fin–based products were imported into Hong Kong in 2011, according to statistics released last week by The Pew Charitable Trusts Environmental Group in the report, Navigating Global Shark Conservation: Current Measures and Gaps (pdf). The organization says Hong Kong imports about half of the world shark fin harvest.

The Pew group obtained these figures from the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong, but even they don't tell the whole story. Previous research (pdf) has estimated the total worldwide shark fin catch to be three to four times what is legally reported. Because so much of the shark trade is illegal and carried out in the black market, the true total number of sharks killed each year is impossible to ascertain, but the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and other organizations estimate it at more than 100 million. Another group, Shark Defenders, puts the annual average at 38 million, citing the same 2006 research that quantified the shark-fin trade.

Another hidden part of the story, according to the Pew report, is the types of sharks being caught. Many of the nations that allow shark fishing do not require good record-keeping and allow fishermen to log all of their catches simply as "sharks" rather than specific shark species. Some nations even report their take in extremely broad categories such as "sharks, rays, skates, etcetera," so there's no specificity to what their fishing fleets actually landed.

The wide range of regional shark protections—or non-protections, as is often the case—also presents problems, according to the report, which presents a picture of what it dubs "an inadequate patchwork of varying measures at the domestic, regional and international levels for trade regulation or shark protection." The report found that only one third of the countries where shark fishing takes place bans shark finning—the practice of catching a shark, stripping it of its fins and dumping the body (often still alive) back into the water. Pew also found that few nations have laws in place to protect individual shark species—even if species found in their waters are threatened or endangered. And then there is the challenge of enforcement, even where regulations exist.

Only three shark species are globally protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species: the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) and whale shark (Rhincodon typus).

So where did all of the shark fins imported into Hong Kong come from? Spain, it turns out, was the number-one source. Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates rounded out the top five. The U.S. was the ninth-largest source of shark fins imported into Hong Kong.

The report does not count sharks caught by Chinese fishing vessels for sale within Hong Kong and mainland China.

The Pew Environmental Group makes several recommendations in its report, including banning all fishing of any shark species listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as threatened or endangered and developing science-based management plans for all other shark species. The IUCN lists 480 shark species on its Red List of Threatened Species, 150 of which are listed as threatened or near threatened. Of the 62 shark species that are considered "highly migratory"—and therefore most likely to cross national boundaries, which makes them harder to protect amidst the patchwork of regulations—82 percent are listed as threatened or near threatened. More than 200 of those species lack sufficient data for assessments to be made of their health and conservation status.

Shark finning is falling out of favor in a few places, albeit slowly. A handful of U.S. states have banned shark fishing or—as Illinois did earlier this month—the possession, sale, trade or distribution of shark fins. Even China itself just announced that it will stop serving shark fin soup at official banquets—in approximately three years.

Photo: Shark fins for sale in Hong Kong by Gregg Tavares via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

John R. Platt is the editor of The Revelator. An award-winning environmental journalist, his work has appeared in Scientific American, Audubon, Motherboard, and numerous other magazines and publications. His "Extinction Countdown" column has run continuously since 2004 and has covered news and science related to more than 1,000 endangered species. John lives on the outskirts of Portland, Ore., where he finds himself surrounded by animals and cartoonists.


Hong Kong customs seize 38,500 endangered shark fins

A record 26 tonnes of shark fin were seized by customs officers in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has seized 26 tonnes of smuggled shark fins, sliced from some 38,500 endangered animals, in the largest bust of its kind in the southern Chinese city.

The record haul was discovered in two containers from Ecuador, and highlights the continued demand for shark fin, which is served at wedding banquets in many Chinese communities.

The city's customs department unveiled the haul on Wednesday and said it smashed previous records.

"Each consignment consisting of 13 tonnes broke the previous record seizure of 3.8 tonnes of controlled shark fins made in 2019," customs official Danny Cheung told reporters.

Most of the fins came from thresher and silky sharks, both endangered species. A 57-year-old man was arrested but has been released on bail pending further enquiries.

Some of the ocean's most vital apex predators, shark populations have been decimated over the last few decades with finning and industrial long line fishing the main culprits.

Fishing fleets often cut the fin from the shark and then and throw the fatally maimed animal back in the sea to maximise profit.

The dried fins sell for considerable sums and are usually served in a glutinous soup at banquets.

The sale and consumption of shark fin is not illegal in Hong Kong, but must be licensed.

Years of campaigning by environmentalists and celebrities like Chinese basketball star Yao Ming have led to the dish becoming less fashionable among younger consumers in China, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

But it remains stubbornly popular among older generations and many prominent hotels and restaurants still offer it.

A 2018 survey by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) found seven out of 10 Hong Kongers had eaten shark fin that year.

"There is still strong cultural value placed on consuming shark fin, particularly at weddings, business events and family gatherings like the upcoming Mother's Day," senior conservation officer Gloria Lai Pui-yin told AFP.

Some restaurants and hotels had signed WWF's "no shark fin" pledge but many continued to offer the dish, she added.

Wild Aid estimates some 73 million sharks are killed every year for the trade.

Their research says consumption has dropped significantly on the Chinese mainland but there is growing appetite for the dish in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.

With its busy port and international connections, Hong Kong has long been a major trafficking route for wildlife and drug smugglers.

Importing endangered species without a licence is illegal and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and a HK$10 million ($1.3 million) fine.


China Says No More Shark Fin Soup at State Banquets

China said Tuesday that it would prohibit official banquets from serving shark fin soup, an expensive and popular delicacy blamed for a sharp decline in global shark populations.

The ban, reported by Xinhua, the state-run news agency, could take as many as three years to take effect, and it remains unclear how widely it will be adhered to across a sprawling nation where orders issued by Beijing are often shrugged off by officials in faraway regions and provinces.

Still, the decision to stop serving shark fin soup at official functions was welcomed by environmental campaigners. Experts have long cautioned that soaring demand for the soup over the past two decades has imperiled shark populations around the globe.

“This is a very positive step forward,” said Andy Cornish, director of conservation at W.W.F. in Hong Kong. “It is the first time that the Chinese central government has expressed a decision to phase out shark fin from banquets funded by taxpayers’ money.” He said the move would send an important signal to consumers in China, the largest market for the fins.

Stan Shea, a project coordinator in Hong Kong at Bloom Association, a marine conservation organization, likewise welcomed the policy change, saying it represented a “big step” to help shark populations.

The soup, brewed from dried shark fins, is largely tasteless and slithery but has considerable cachet as a status symbol. Many in China consider it a must-serve at lavish, multicourse banquets to celebrate weddings, anniversaries and corporate and state events.

Retailers in Hong Kong, the main hub for the international trade in the fins, charge more than 2,000 Hong Kong dollars, or $260, per catty, a traditional weight measure commonly used in markets here. Equal to just over one pound, one catty makes about 10 portions of soup, which works out to $26 a portion.

Rapid economic growth across Asia in recent years has catapulted millions into the ranks of those who can now afford the dish.

In an effort to conserve shark populations, several nations have banned the fishing of sharks. Several American states, including California, have banned the possession, sale and distribution of shark fins. And in Hong Kong, several high-end restaurants and hotels have recently taken shark fin off the menu in response to shifting public awareness in the city. The Hong Kong government has so far resisted calls from shark conservationists to curtail the trade or consumption of shark fins.

“The Hong Kong government has repeatedly dodged the question of implementing a banqueting ban on shark fin soup, saying that it sees no need for such guidelines,” said Mr. Cornish of W.W.F. “We strongly hope that the new administration in Hong Kong government will shortly follow suit.”

The Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department’s media office, in an e-mail on Tuesday, reiterated its long-held stance that the government carries out the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, known by its acronym, Cites.

Environmentalists, however, argue that Cites should list as threatened a far larger number of shark species than it does.

Hong Kong government guidelines stipulate that official banquets not be “extravagant,” and this means menus do not “generally include shark fin,” the media department added. It did not say whether Hong Kong would echo Beijing’s decision to ban the dish from official banquets.


China Bans Shark Fin Soup at State Banquets

“This is a very positive step forward,” said Andy Cornish, director of conservation at W.W.F. in Hong Kong. “It is the first time that the Chinese central government has expressed a decision to phase out shark fin from banquets funded by taxpayers’ money.” He said the move would send an important signal to consumers in China, the largest market for the fins.

[…]

Retailers in Hong Kong, the main hub for the international trade in the fins, charge more than 2,000 Hong Kong dollars, or $260, per catty, a traditional weight measure commonly used in markets here. Equal to just over one pound, one catty makes about 10 portions of soup, which works out to $26 a portion.

Rapid economic growth across Asia in recent years has catapulted millions into the ranks of those who can now afford the dish.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong — another big shark fin soup market — “several high-end restaurants and hotels have recently taken shark fin off the menu in response to shifting public awareness in the city”. However, it remains unclear if the Hong Kong government will follow Beijing’s decision to ban the dish at official banquets. From New York Times:


As Many As 100 Million Sharks Killed Every Year for Soup

John R. Platt

Photo by <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/cat.mhtml?lang=en&search_source=search_form&version=llv1&anyorall=all&safesearch=1&searchterm=shark+fin&search_group=#id=68042731&src=dfdb5ccdecbb0a42f8fb44702735671a-1-11">Natali Glado</a>/Shutterstock

The appearance of a shark fin piercing the ocean surface is often seen as a sign of danger to humans. Even more dangerous to sharks is the sight of a shark fin floating in a bowl of soup.

Around the world, sharks are in crisis. Many species have suffered population declines of 90 to 99 percent in recent decades, mostly to feed the seemingly endless demand for the tasteless concoction known as shark fin soup, which is served to mark important occasions such as weddings and business deals in China and some other Asian communities. An astonishing 10.3 million kilograms of shark fins and shark fin-based products were imported into Hong Kong in 2011, according to statistics released last week by the Pew Charitable Trusts Environmental Group in the report, “Navigating Global Shark Conservation: Current Measures and Gaps” (pdf). The organization says Hong Kong imports about half of the world shark fin harvest.

The Pew group obtained these figures from the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong, but even they don’t tell the whole story. Previous research (pdf) has estimated the total worldwide shark fin catch to be three to four times what is legally reported. Because so much of the shark trade is illegal and carried out in the black market, the true total number of sharks killed each year is impossible to ascertain, but the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and other organizations estimate it at more than 100 million. Another group, Shark Defenders, puts the annual average at 38 million, citing the same 2006 research that quantified the shark-fin trade.

Another hidden part of the story, according to the Pew report, is the types of sharks being caught. Many of the nations that allow shark fishing do not require good record-keeping and allow fishermen to log all of their catches simply as “sharks” rather than specific shark species. Some nations even report their take in extremely broad categories such as “sharks, rays, skates, etcetera,” so there’s no specificity to what their fishing fleets actually landed.

The wide range of regional shark protections&mdashor nonprotections, as is often the case&mdashalso presents problems, according to the report, which presents a picture of what it dubs “an inadequate patchwork of varying measures at the domestic, regional and international levels for trade regulation or shark protection.” The report found that only one third of the countries where shark fishing takes place bans shark finning&mdashthe practice of catching a shark, stripping it of its fins and dumping the body (often still alive) back into the water. Pew also found that few nations have laws in place to protect individual shark species&mdasheven if species found in their waters are threatened or endangered. And then there is the challenge of enforcement, even where regulations exist.

Only three shark species are globally protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species: the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus), and whale shark (Rhincodon typus).

So where did all of the shark fins imported into Hong Kong come from? Spain, it turns out, was the No. 1 source. Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates rounded out the top five. The United States was the ninth-largest source of shark fins imported into Hong Kong.

The report does not count sharks caught by Chinese fishing vessels for sale within Hong Kong and mainland China.

The Pew Environmental Group makes several recommendations in its report, including banning all fishing of any shark species listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as threatened or endangered and developing science-based management plans for all other shark species. The IUCN lists 480 shark species on its Red List of Threatened Species, 150 of which are listed as threatened or near threatened. Of the 62 shark species that are considered “highly migratory”&mdashand therefore most likely to cross national boundaries, which makes them harder to protect amidst the patchwork of regulations&mdash82 percent are listed as threatened or near threatened. More than 200 of those species lack sufficient data for assessments to be made of their health and conservation status.

Shark finning is falling out of favor in a few places, albeit slowly. A handful of US states have banned shark fishing or&mdashas Illinois did earlier this month&mdashthe possession, sale, trade or distribution of shark fins. Even China itself just announced that it will stop serving shark fin soup at official banquets&mdashin approximately three years.


Venezuela Bans Shark Finning, Establishes Shark Sanctuary

NOTE: This post was excerpted from an article by Douglas Main on OurAmazingPlanet. Click here to read the full article.

Some much-needed good news for sharks has come from Venezuela this week: The South American country announced it is banning shark finning in its waters and has established a new shark sanctuary.

The country became the last in the Americas to outlaw the practice of cutting off the fins of live sharks and tossing the animals back into the ocean to slowly die.

The country also has created a sanctuary where several important shark species breed, outlawing commercial shark fishing there. The sanctuary consists of 1,440 square miles (3,730 square kilometers) of the Caribbean Sea surrounding the Los Roques Archipelago, a popular tourist destination.


� of campaigning'

The move was hailed by conservation groups.

"After almost a decade of advocacy in the form of petitions, protest marches, letter writing and media campaigns, the Hong Kong government has finally seen fit to do the right thing - for which we applaud them," Alex Hofford, the executive director of Hong Kong-based marine conservation group MyOcean, told AFP news agency.

"We hope the citizens of Hong Kong can follow suit and finally lay this abhorrent tradition to rest," Mr Hofford said.

Last year, tens of thousands of shark fins found drying on a factory rooftop in Hong Kong - in an apparent attempt to hide the increasingly controversial items from public view - caused an outcry among conservationists.

The anti-shark fin campaigns have prompted some five-star hotels in the Chinese territory to remove shark fin from their menus, as well as flagship carrier Cathay Pacific.


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Comments:

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  5. Volrajas

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