Universities should set example to curb demand for shark fin

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 January, 2009, 12:00am

It is time in the Year of the Ox for Hong Kong's universities to change their policies.

A casual stroll through Sheung Wan brings you face to face with the tragic evidence - thousands of dried shark fins on display, with countless burlap sacks filled with the harvest from untold kills. All over Hong Kong we find the spoils from ships that have sailed the world to systematically destroy the animals that bring ecological balance to the seas.

The tradition of serving shark's fin soup at banquets - by our universities, no less - and Hong Kong's role as a trade hub literally decides if and when our oceans die. And as our oceans lose their health, so do we.

Obviously, retail outlets like Wellcome, ParknShop and many restaurants will continue this business as long as the demand for shark fin is high. So how do we curb this demand, reminding people of the alternatives?

Certainly, we should expect our universities to lead the way rather than making choices that bring shame to Hong Kong.

I call on all our institutions of learning to unite and conduct their business as ethically as possible - their business, after all, is to educate. And of course this education starts within the schools themselves.

Conservation groups like WWF have partnered with progressive companies like HSBC, Hang Seng Bank, Swire Properties and others, but not with all our universities. Thankfully, there are exceptions. The University of Hong Kong understands the issue and no longer serves shark's fin soup. What remains is for the other universities to act and inspire the population to do what is right.

University of Hong Kong rejected the argument that eating shark's fin soup is a necessary part of Hong Kong's culture, rejecting the practice of tossing carcasses overboard to rot on the seabed. Why haven't all the universities done the same?

The debate ended years ago, especially with evidence that some 97 per cent of certain shark species have already been lost just so their fins can end up in a bowl at a Chinese meal.

The time has come for all our universities to come forward and educate.

Ran Elfassy, Sai Kung