Shark-finning advocate presents a gross distortion of the facts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 June, 2012, 12:00am


In his letter ('Petition to Legco that criticises eating of shark fin contains tainted information', June 13), Charlie Lim of the Marine Products Association, presents what can only be construed as a gross distortion of the facts.

The letter under discussion concerns the issue of shark finning and was signed by 41 of the world's leading marine scientists before being sent to the Legislative Council on May 22. Contrary to Mr Lim's claims, the letter was indeed a 'home-grown' initiative, being led by the Hong Kong Shark Foundation in collaboration with several Hong Kong-based organisations.

The US based Pew Charitable Trusts' involvement was purely at the foundation's request, and consisted of simply assisting in gaining some signatories from leading scientists, given that many are currently based in the US. Since then, an open version of the letter, including additional non-US signatories, has also been released internationally thanks to the assistance of a network of non-governmental organisations including Nature Conservancy (China), the Environmental and Animal Society of Taiwan, Shark Savers (Singapore), the White Shark Conservation Trust (New Zealand) and Global Ocean (Dubai). Again, the foundation co-ordinated this action.

Unfortunately, despite all of the peer-reviewed scientific evidence that shark populations are in dramatic decline and that this decline is, to a large degree, driven by the fin trade, Mr Lim insists in trying to turn the shark-fin issue away from the facts, to a cultural issue of East versus West. By contrast, the foundation has always asserted that the real shark-fin issue is not a question of cultural sensitivities but one of environmental and biological limits.

To say that the submission of the letter was a 'commercial marketing exercise that lacks scientific substance' is simply absurd: the letter's signatories are 41 of the world's foremost marine scientists; academics who were compelled to inform Legco of the facts, given the misinformation continuously perpetuated by the Marine Products Association in Hong Kong. It is irrelevant where these scientists are based: what is important is their research expertise and academic standing and, in this regard, their credentials are admirable.

By contrast, the true commercial exercise is the association's use of paid-for advertorials in local papers in order to disseminate persistent misinformation about declining shark populations and unsubstantiated claims that the trade which it represents is sustainable.

Bertha Lo-Hofford, programme director, Hong Kong Shark Foundation