Shark protection takes fresh bite out of Hong Kong fin market

Featured - March 18th, 2013
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Hong Kong’s shark fin market is feeling the effects of a “historical” move to restrict global trade of the species.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) expanded protection to the oceanic whitetip shark, the porbeagle and three types of hammerheads which are threatened by overfishing for their fins, seen as a rare ‘delicacy’ in China and Hong Kong. The sharks are often caught and thrown back to sea after their fins have been hacked off.

Fin merchants in the southern Chinese city – one of the world’s biggest shark fin markets – insisted the impact of restrictions would be minimal as they would continue to import other species not covered by the protection, reports AFP.

“It’s not an issue for us – we have about 400 shark species, we can always import other species,” said Ho Siu-chai, the chairman of the Hong Kong Shark Fin Trade Merchants Assocation, adding that only one-tenth of the market would be affected.

But fin traders have already been feeling the pinch from anti-fin campaigners.

Shark fin imports fell dramatically to 3,351 tons in 2012 from 10,340 tons in the previous year, after some prominent hotels and restaurants in Hong Kong removed the expensive gelatinous shark fin soup from their menus.

Frederick Yu, a shark fin trader for over 10 years, told AFP he supported the sustainability of shark populations, adding that environmentalists were unfair to target traders.

“More and more young people think having shark fin soup is cruel,” he said. “For Chinese, the only two delicacies we have are abalone and shark fins. The Westerners eat caviar and foie gras, is that not cruel? Why do they stop us from eating shark fins?”