PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 April, 2011, 12:00am


Sustainable fisheries key to shark fin debate

I refer to the letter by Charlie Lim, of the Marine Products Association ('Distinct lack of tolerance in shark fin debate', April 4).

Mr Lim said that the European Union and major countries, such as Australia, Canada and the US, must land shark meat and fins by law. Why do so many countries have such legislation? It is precisely to stop only the fins being landed and the meat discarded.

Suggestions that shark fin is simply a by-product are not true in many cases. Studies have shown that tuna long-line fisheries, which catch many oceanic sharks, will actively avoid catching sharks if they are not able to reap the economic benefits of selling the fins. So, a reduction in demand for shark fin will certainly reduce the killing of sharks in fisheries where they are primarily targeted for their fins.

Contrary to Mr Lim's claim, WWF's global network is not aware of any sustainable shark fisheries. A recent report produced by Traffic (the wildlife trade monitoring network) notes that 80 per cent of the total reported shark catch comes from just 20 nations, which are key to the global conservation of sharks. But, only 13 out of these 20 nations have developed National Plans of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (NPOA-Sharks), as agreed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation's committee on fisheries 10 years ago.

The report concludes that shark fisheries are unlikely to be well managed in most of the top 20 nations, even some of those with NPOAs. Therefore, it should be no surprise that the number of threatened shark and related species has risen from 15 in 1996 to 181 in 2010, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List.

In view of the urgency of this global crisis, and the continued collective failure of the critical shark-catching nations to improve the sustainability of their shark fisheries, WWF, which first started its 'no shark fin' campaign in Hong Kong in 2007, continues to advocate a complete stop to the consumption of shark fin.

The last full meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in 2010 noted that unregulated and unreported trade of sharks and their products remains an important driver contributing to unsustainable fishing of sharks.

Within Hong Kong, shark fin retail outlets, basic product information - such as what species and which country the shark was caught from - is rarely available. This will render the reliable identification of sustainable shark fin products being traded impossible, should sustainable shark fisheries develop in the future.

To encourage sustainability, joint efforts must be made to improve transparency in the shark trade.

WWF has always stated that it is the unsustainability of shark fisheries, rather than consuming sharks per se, that is the issue, but will continue to call for a complete halt to eating shark's fin soup while no sustainable fisheries for sharks from an ecosystem perspective exist.

C. W. Cheung, head of footprint programme, WWF - Hong Kong

Long way to go for naval power

I read the reports about China's first aircraft carrier nearing completion ('Home-made carrier plan 'entering the final stages'', April 8).

Many Chinese internet users have greeted the news with excitement.

Being Chinese, I am glad that the country is growing in strength. It is certainly a breakthrough that we finally have a carrier and that the work is 'entering the final stages'.

However, it is important to see things in perspective. When it comes to aircraft carriers, we are still far behind countries like the US, France, Russia and Italy.

Also, I doubt the US is pleased with this development. It does not really want to see China with its own aircraft carrier.

I think it will do what it can to put obstacles in the way of China's efforts to improve its carrier technology, such as blocking imports of equipment.

If we wish to become a naval superpower, we still have a long way to go.

Au Ho-cheung, Tai Wai

Textbook case of cheating

In just a few years, the price of textbooks has increased more than 10 per cent.

Many students and parents complain that when they have paid more for updated textbooks, the difference between the 'new version' and the 'old version' is just some changes of terms which don't affect the original meaning, or some new photos and a few additional pieces of blank paper. Now, the publishers use the same strategy to excuse a price rise of up to 5 per cent.

They are cheating us, but the government has no measure to control the market.

If there is some important information or data that is useful for studies, the publishers can simply design supplementary notes and send them to the commercial agents to distribute.

If the old textbooks are almost the same as the new one, why do we need to purchase the expensive one?

The publishers are not just cheating us, but also wasting resources.

Michael Yau, Tai Wai

Lift limit on 'fruit money'

Of course the 60-day residency restriction for 'fruit money' should be lifted. Why make these old people's lives harder?

They have worked all their lives and deserve this money, and it's not only the 60-day residency rule that's a problem - the allowance is nowhere near enough and should be at least doubled.

Old people should be allowed to live in dignity and they also should be able to use public transport free of charge.

The Hong Kong government has so much money in their coffers that maybe they should think about giving more to this deserving group of people. Look at the amount of money the government spends on other things.

S. Sparkes, Tsim Sha Tsui

Clear the air on officials' health

The recent illness of the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung has aroused some attention in the community ('Third minister in a month has surgery', April 8), prompting a legislative councillor to request that the illnesses of high-ranking government officials be disclosed to ease speculation among citizens.

The secretary has responded in the media that such disclosure would be dealt with according to the individual and on a case-by-case basis. The secretary should be more definitive in this case. Does he mean the higher the rank ing the official has, the more transparency is required, or the other way round? What are the criteria for judging individual cases?

On the other hand, what he suggested could be taken to mean the government has the option to disclose or not reveal such information - which goes against the spirit of transparency.

If we accept that transparency about the health of high-ranking officials should be maintained in the interest of the public, it should not be up to the administration to choose which case should be transparent. When the administration deems transparency does not apply to some officials, then it simply means the whole system is not transparent.

If high-ranking officials are a relevant part of each citizen's life, and if they do affect our welfare substantially, then their health should be our concern and hence the government should be transparent about this across the board.

Anthony Wong, Mid-Levels

Preparing for worst is for best

Much has been written on the pros and cons of nuclear power. And much newspaper space has been dedicated to the salt saga in Hong Kong and the mainland.

What we have not seen yet is our government's response plan to a crisis at Daya Bay, such as a radiation leak or worse. I would have expected a public relations effort at least.

A clear outline of transport routes and planning for provision of temporary accommodation are needed. If we need to deal with a crisis, preparation is of the utmost importance.

Let's hope that by preparing for the worst, we avoid the tragic scenario in Hong Kong that we have seen in Japan.

Stephen Anderson, Macau

Education, not Net cafe bans

I'm writing in response to the story about children under 16 being banned from internet cafes ('Under 16s midnight ban looms at Net cafes', April 1).

I don't think this policy can help in the fight against youth crime because I don't think there is a strong relationship between youth crime and internet cafes.

And even if children were banned from internet cafes after midnight, they could commit crimes somewhere else, such as in a playground. If the government wants to fight youth crime, I think better education is a more important way to do it.

Calvin Chung, Sha Tin

Basic benefits of minimum wage

Thank you for Bernard Chan's column supporting the pragmatism of Hong Kong's new minimum wage law ('Regulation pays in laissez-faire Hong Kong', April 8). A market without regulation is neither free nor efficient.

The minimum wage will benefit Hong Kong's economy by putting more cash in the pockets of workers. It will improve the nutrition of their children, their readiness for school, and their performance in it. Nothing could be more beneficial for our community.

William DuBay, Ap Lei Chau