Call to label shark's fin products

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 June, 2011, 12:00am


A marine conservationist has urged the introduction of a labelling system for shark's fin so consumers know when they're eating an endangered species, a suggestion that was welcomed by the trade but drew a non-committal response from the government.

Taking a different stance from other campaigners who want a complete ban, Stanley Shea Kwok-ho said the government should legislate for a labelling system that required traders to list the species.

'If an individual species name is known to the public, they can always choose not to consume the endangered species, hence curbing shark fin trade,' Shea, project co-ordinator for marine conservation group Bloom HK, said.

He was speaking on World Oceans Day to mark the debut of a short movie against the shark-fin trade, starring local students and actor Michael Wong.

Ricky Leung Lak-kee, spokesman for the Marine Products Association, welcomed the suggestion.

'We would be pleased to follow if there is a need for legislation,' Leung said. 'Most sellers follow regulations handed down by the government. The problem is there are chances some shark fin products are occasionally mixed with endangered species. It's hard to tell the species after they are cleaned and washed.'

Scientists estimate up to 73 million sharks are killed each year for the fin trade, of which at least half is handled by Hong Kong.

A recent poll by the University of Hong Kong showed that half of the city's consumers did not know that some species, including sharks and humphead wrasse, are endangered, while 85 per cent would not knowingly eat endangered species.

The Environmental Protection Department would not comment on the labelling suggestion, saying only that Hong Kong regulated the trade of shark species listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Trade is still allowed in most shark species except the great white, basking and whale sharks.

But Bloom says the 14 species most commonly available for sale in dried seafood stores, including smooth and scalloped hammerheads, known as chun chi in Chinese cuisine, are listed on the International Union for Conversation of Nature's red list of endangered species.