Lai See

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2012, 12:00am


Unhealthy appetite for cruelty in world's shark-fin capital

Hong Kong has the dubious reputation of being the biggest centre in the world for the trade in shark fins. Globally, it is estimated that 30 million to 70 million sharks are killed each year in a trade valued at between US$540 million (HK$4.2 billion) to US$1.2 billion annually. Roughly half of that trade is believed to be centred in Hong Kong, where the fins are either consumed locally or exported, principally to the mainland. Environmental groups say that demand has declined slightly in Hong Kong but the fall in demand has more than been made up by the mainland, where rising income has led to growing consumption of shark's fin soup. In Hong Kong the growing perception of the inhumane manner of finning sharks and the rapid depletion of sharks and the impact on the marine ecosystem has led to a rising number of five-star hotels and other organisations banning the delicacy.

City needs a change of diet

Recently 41 global marine scientists signed a letter sent to legislators urging the government take action to protect dwindling shark populations. The letter was presented to two legislators by Professor Yvonne Sadovy of Hong Kong University's school of biological sciences along with Hong Kong-based NGOs Bloom and the Hong Kong Shark Foundation (HKSF). The letter was also aimed at countering misinformation by pro-shark-fin groups like the Hong Kong's Marine Products Association (MPA), formerly known as the Shark Fin and Marine Products Association, which in a series of advertorials in the Chinese press recently has claimed that shark finning is a sustainable industry. The MPA says its views are supported by Cites (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

The letter signed by the 41 scientists says that 'Cites does not adequately protect sharks, regulating just three of the 82 threatened shark species on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List. ' The MPA in its advertorials attempts to portray the issue as one of Western NGOs seeking to use the shark-fin issue 'as a gimmick to attract funds and to discredit the fin-eating culture'. The HKSF in a press statement said the issue was not one of Western versus Chinese culture but about sustainability.

Donald Tsang's administration, the HKSF says, has hidden behind the ineffective trade restrictions set by Cites in refusing to act to protect sharks - either through an outright ban on the trade or taking a first step in banning consumption at official government functions.

A 2011 study by Bloom showed that 85 per cent of Hongkongers supported a ban on importing shark fin into the city. The hope is that C .Y. Leung's administration may adopt a policy worthy of the government's boast that Hong Kong is Asia's world city.

Youthful energy in short supply

The inaugural annual forum of the Fung Global Institute - the Asia-Global Dialogue - moved its final session to Shenzhen on Saturday. There, Mao Yushi, a liberal economist well known on the mainland, had a sobering message for some of the students who were attending. A lecturer from the Peking University HSBC Business School in Shenzhen, possibly hoping for an inspirational response, had asked him: 'What advice do you have for our young students?'

Mao's reply was crisp: 'Today there are fewer and fewer young people in China. Two decades ago, China had 150 million elementary school students, today only 100 million, one third less compared with 20 years ago.

'Young people will face a tremendous burden in the future, and many of you will be taking care of six senior people. The key is to study hard and have a solid foundation in an area of expertise. Just listening to a few speeches at forums is no substitute.'

Now there's something to look forward to.

As gloomy as they come

Raoul Paul of The Global Macro Investor has released a presentation documenting 'The End Game' for the global financial system. It is by far the gloomiest appraisal we've encountered of where this Greek game is heading. He is a former Goldman Sachs co-head of hedge fund sales in equities and equity derivatives in Europe, efinancial careers tells us, and his clients include hedge funds, global wealth funds and state pension funds.

He is forecasting sovereign defaults and the biggest banking crisis in history and the end of the current financial system. 'All that will be left is the dollar and gold.'

People will be shut out of financial markets. We can expect the beginning of the end in 2012 and 2013. You have been warned.