If you can ban ivory, you can ban shark fins, too

Hong Kong is a tale of two cities. While it makes welcome strides to protect elephants, it continues to support the slaughter of sharks.

Last week, I was thrilled to read about the decision by Hong Kong lawmakers to ban all ivory trading by 2021. The landslide vote came just one month after China closed down the commercial processing and sale of ivory. Over the next three and a half years, all trade of ivory and its products will be gradually phased out with imports and re-exports banned from August this year. 

As thousands of elephants continue to be brutally killed by poachers across Africa every year, China’s and Hong Kong’s decision is an enormously important signal to the rest of the world that we must protect these iconic species rather than letting them be hunted, butchered and killed for the sake of a symbol of status and wealth. 

But when it comes to the trade in wildlife products, ivory is only part of the picture. Hong Kong is also at the centre of the brutal shark fin business, accounting for about half of global trade every year. It is estimated that around 100 million sharks are slaughtered each year, with around 73 million of those targeted solely for their fins, which are considered a delicacy across Asia. Sharks have their fins hacked off whilst still alive and are then thrown back into. Finned sharks either starve to death, are eaten alive by other fish, or drown – if they are not in constant movement their gills can no longer extract oxygen from water.

This is barbaric, and it must end.

The trade in shark fins must be tackled along the entire supply chains, Many airlines, including Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia, have banned the transport of shark fins on their aircraft. But more must be done to tackle shark fin traders who abuse the system by fraudulently not declaring and mislabelling shark fin under generic categories such as ‘seafood’, ‘dried seafood’, ‘dried goods’ or ‘dried marine products’ to avoid detection.

WildAid, one of our amazing wildlife conservation partners, have been fighting the shark fin trade for years. Alex Hofford, one of WildAid’s brilliant campaigners based in Hong Kong, recently asked me to sign a letter to the CEO of Maxim Catering Limited on this issue. Maxim's is Hong Kong's largest restaurant group and shark fin is still consumed at many Maxim's outlets across the city. The company’s reluctance to take shark fin soup off their menu contributes directly to the endangerment of shark species, and the marine environment – in Asia and beyond.

Maxim's communications in response to earlier protests emphasised that the company takes "responsibility in sustainable sourcing while continuing to respond to our customers’ changing preferences. We will also closely monitor new environmental factors, and review our strategies responsibly". 

Specifically, Maxim’s has stated publicly that it serves blue shark which it maintains is “lower risk”. However, the scientific evidence shows that from 1996 to 2009, there has been a greater than 50% decline in the North Pacific of blue sharks. I hope the evidence and increased consumer pressure will prompt Maxim’s to reconsider its position.

Please sign the petition to campaign Maxim's Restaurants in Hong Kong to stop selling Shark Fin soup.


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