• Fri
  • Aug 1, 2014
  • Updated: 4:53pm
NewsHong Kong
ENVIRONMENT

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."

Share

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive
 
 

 

23

This article is now closed to comments

2014march14@gmail.com‏
Just because some people make a living out of doing something does not make the thing moral or right. It also does not mean they should be guaranteed to the same livelihood forever. People in all sorts of industries would loose their jobs or have to close their businesses because of new technologies that replace their products, changes in social attitude towards their products, or changes in policy. Society progresses and things change, and it is inevitable that some industries will go down and others will thrive.
The decline in shark fin import to HK is a positive change that should be welcomed. Good job with the environmentalist campaign. It is unfortunate that these fishermen have to suffer, but they will eventually move on, just as the VHS producers, photo film developers, and slave traders moved on and found other things to do.
staceydotcom
It's time for the government to step up and do something to resolve the opposite stances.
TheFundamentals
Airlines are doing the right thing. People should spread the words that shark fins are simply nutritionally inferior to ordinary foods, so don't waste your money.
cristiantiburon.blanco
no me interesa , ninguna explicación avala la muerte de los tiburones , que hacían antes de matar esta cantidad d animales no vengan con estúpidas mentiras , aparte el valor biológico que ellos poseen es infinito matar un tiburon debería tener pena de muerte , por lo mismo llevo una vida vegana .
cristiantiburon.blanco
no me interesa , ninguna explicación avala la muerte de los tiburones , que hacían antes de matar esta cantidad d animales no vengan con estúpidas mentiras , aparte el valor biológico que ellos poseen es infinito matar un tibruon debería tener pena de muerte , por lo mismo llevo una vida vegana .
anneqh
I think it is the deplorable way the sharks are killed - fins cut off while in the ocean and sharks sink to the bottom to suffocate - that most people have a problem with. The 'poor' fishermen don't seem to need the rest of the shark meat.
Hollander323
The Japanese has declared to the world they rejected CITES, this means they will carry on to kill sharks and whales for commercial purposes. Just want to know which airline is working for them to deliver the goods!
pseudotriton
The Japanese kill their own whales with their "research vessels", so they probably don't need any airlines to ship the meat.
I could be biased, but I just find it interesting that the outrage against Japan and Norway's whale hunting doesn't seem nearly as fierce as those about shark fins.
rmackinnon
Japan Airlines & All Nippon Airlines (ANA)
RedKnightZi
They still wanna us consume Poisonous Shark Meat and Fins, NO WAY !!!
gayle.burgess.92
Im soooo very happy to hear this.
Well done !
the sun also rises
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 !
superdx
GOOD
caractacus
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.
pseudotriton
Stop making this a cultural or ethnicity thing. Culture has nothing to do with this. Europeans wiped out a lot of native fauna when they settled in North America and Australia. And even today many Americans complain that environmental policies protecting natural habitats are hurting their "livelihoods", in a manner not unlike what this Ricky Leung is doing. Human overpopulation is the culprit for all the environmental problems, not just any specific culture.
kim.chen.16568
(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?
Dai Muff
If they cared about these poor fishermen they could simply have paid them better for the sharks fins for all these years.
maecheung
The poor fisherman have alternatives...they can catch other fishes instead!
lexishk
Exactly. Humans can find other jobs and livelihoods. Sharks can't grow back their fins or recover their lives. The HK Marine Products Association people are amongst the most immoral scum I've ever seen on this earth.
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.
maecheung
Better still, boycott the banquet and the restaurant if there is shark fin served.
scmp04
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......
maecheung
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!
 
 
 
 
 

Login

SCMP.com Account

or