Killing a young shark is wrong whatever a person's culture

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 June, 2008, 12:00am

Last week, it was reported that a whale shark had been found dead, ironically in the middle of the WWF's 'Save Our Seas' campaign, after it had been netted by fishermen and then released. Sadly, I witnessed a young shark being killed in South Lantau by a fisherman last week.

I have been living in Hong Kong for almost two years and feel a strong sense of pride about living in someone else's country. As such, I try to fit in with the local community. It is not my place to question what are, for me, alien sights in Hong Kong such as crates of frogs and half fish with beating hearts in markets. But some things are universally wrong.

One evening last week, I was walking with my wife and friends on one of South Lantau's beaches, when a local fisherman strode in from the shallows with his net weighed down by an infant shark measuring about 40-50cm. We think it was a sandbar shark.

Our initial excitement at seeing one of these rare creatures soon eroded into a deep sense of wrong as we watched this beautiful, young fish suffocate in front of us. When my friends' young children asked the fisherman why he was not putting it back into the sea, he said he would kill it as it was dangerous.

As the children's eyes welled up with tears, my soul was equally gripped in pain from some distant primitive instinct. Why could these children have a greater sense of right and wrong than this fisherman? Should I grab the shark and set it free? Or should I stand there as a cowardly spectator, as guilty as the fisherman, so as to avoid cultural confrontation. Since Hong Kong has some of the weakest marine legislation in the world, I realised confrontation could have led me quickly to the wrong side of the law.

However, just because you live in a culture doesn't mean you blindly need to follow its ways or customs. Legislation and marine protection will not come about without public support and that will only develop with effective education - education to respect our wider environment and to take responsibility for its protection. Hong Kong is so advanced, but we need more education on how to live in Hong Kong's environment.

Mawgan Grace, Lantau