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  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Updated: 12:11pm
NewsHong Kong

Shark fin imports to Hong Kong tumble after airlines refuse to carry them

Head of industry association says misguided conservation campaign and weak economy are driving down demand - and fishermen are losing jobs

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 September, 2013, 6:12pm

Shark fin imports to Hong Kong have fallen by up to 30 per cent since the launch of a campaign to stop airlines and shipping lines bringing in the controver- sial product, says an industry spokesman.

Ricky Leung Lak-kee, chairman of the Hong Kong Marine Products Association, told the Sunday Morning Post the shark fin industry had been hit hard by the campaign launched last year, combined with an economic slowdown and the mainland's anti-corruption campaign.

He accused the coalition of 60 green groups behind the campaign of putting fishermen out of work. "They protect the shark but they never think about the livelihood of these poor people," he said.

Hong Kong is the global hub for the trade - which environmentalists say encourages the cruel practice of finning and puts shark populations at risk. The city imported 1,162 tonnes of shark fins in 2012, according to government figures, roughly half the world's harvest.

A letter-writing campaign by a coalition of environmentalists, including representatives from Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd and the Humane Society International, has led to airlines including Qantas and Air New Zealand introducing total bans on shark fins, while Cathay Pacific has said it would now only carry shark fins from sustainable sources. Middle Eastern airline Emirates last week became the latest carrier to announce a total ban on shark fin cargoes, and the campaigners say at least two major shipping lines have announced they will no longer carry the product.

Leung said: "Since the environmentalists launched their very critical attacks on the industry … the import of shark fin has been reduced by between 20 and 30 per cent. The industry is having a very hard time and some people are leaving their jobs.

"The impact is enormous. The drop is not only due to the campaign, it is also due to the very weak economy in Hong Kong and in China, so demand for shark fin has dropped."

The mainland's anti-graft campaign had also affected demand, he said.

Leung argued: "Everyone is suffering but the people who suffer most are the very poor fishermen in very poor seaside areas, like India and the coastal countries of Africa, and Latin America. "All the fishermen are very poor. If they were not poor, they would not go out fishing for sharks … [The green groups] protect the shark but they never think about the livelihood of these poor people. It is terrible. People in my industry might switch to different businesses. But the poor fishermen, they have no alternative."

Leung said that the shark fin industry followed regulations laid out by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and did not catch sharks classified as endangered. "Only a few sharks have endangered status," he said. "We have more than 400 species in the ocean.

"They [the green groups] only show consideration for the sharks. But look at the map and see how big the ocean is. The sharks are there. Sharks will never be extinct."

He asked: "Are they all vegetarians? No. What about slaughtering cattle? What are they talking about? They must be insane. Eating people's livelihoods - isn't that cruel? It is ridiculous."

Leung said he believed the industry could recover if the campaign ended and the economy improved. "A lot of people are aware that these groups are distorting the story. They will realise the truth and they will eat shark fin as usual," he said.

Alex Hofford, executive director of MyOcean and instigator of the campaign to stop shark fin imports, said he was "not surprised" at the estimate of a 20-30 per cent slump in imports.

"We have heard similar figures anecdotally," he said, insisting the campaign would continue. "If you go to Sheung Wan [where importers are based and shark fin is often put out to dry on sidewalks and rooftops], you will see much less shark fin than before.

"It shows that our conservation efforts globally are having a significant effect on this abhorrent trade."


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This article is now closed to comments

Dai Muff
Terrific news. Pity it has not dropped more. And the industry guy is an idiot. Green groups do not want to protect ALL sharks. Most accept sustainable fishing, without which your "poor fishermen" will soon be starving anyway. But they DO oppose the practice of finning and dumping mortally wounded sharks back in the sea to die a slow death. Sharks deserve to be killed humanely if we must kill them at all. Most of my friends already refuse to eat shark fin at wedding banquets. To countenance cruelty and environmental destruction for a (literally tasteless) show of ostentation is disgusting. Much less to start your married life with it.
Yes, completely agee with the above. Why start your married life with blood and cruelty?
As to Mr. Leung's comments - they are short sigthed, selfish and misguided to say the least.
To all those engagin in the shark's fin trade - perhaps you should do not build a business on cruelty & suffering - something to think about......
Better still, boycott the banquet and the restaurant if there is shark fin served.
These guys like Mr. Leung are just being selfish, protecting their own interests and business, very much like the real estate tycoons trying to abolish the extra stamp duties. Shame on them!
The poor fisherman have alternatives...they can catch other fishes instead!
At long last, the airlines to their credit are doing a moral thing. Can the shipping lines be made to follow suit? Not likely since many of those plying trade to China are Chinese owned and / or controlled and so subscribe to this bigoted superstition and stupidity.
"Ricky Leung Lak-kee, chairman of the Hong Kong Marine Products Association.....argued: "Everyone is suffering but the people who suffer most are the very poor fishermen in very poor seaside areas, like India and the coastal countries of Africa, and Latin America."
As if Ricky Leung and his ignorant customers ever gave a damn about the poor fishermen.
Next must come universal condemnation of the amoral attitude of Chinese culture towards endangered species. Only when they are shamed for their hidebound prejudices will this stubborn people begin to listen and learn that their traditional cultural attitudes are not right just because they are "Chinese" and are totally destructive and unacceptable in the civilised world.
hard times !
don't mislead us by saying that as airlines and shipping companies refuse to carry shark fins into the territory have adversely affected the livelihood of our fishermen whose number has long been decreasing and our fishing industry is no longer as important as decades ago ! Now most of our consumed fish are imported from elsewhere especially fish farms on Mainland ! Just like our agricultural industry, our fishing industry has withered in the past decades and many fishermen have changed their jobs, so do their children ! To maintain the balance of ocean ecology, protecting sharks is a must ! As all know, sharks top the food chain in oceans !
(mercenary) businessmen suddenly care about fishermen in tens of thousands miles away...! or they indeed they have no legitimate reason to oppose the campaign and therefore take the fishermen for defense?
Im soooo very happy to hear this.
Well done !



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