The call for a total ban on selling shark fins in the city is mounting following the setting up of a petition by a global civic organisation directed at Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing.
The online campaign, entitled "Hong Kong government: Legislate a ban on the sale and possession of shark fin in Hong Kong", was created on community petition site Avaaz yesterday. It aims to collect 100,000 signatures.
By 7.45pm yesterday more than 500 people from all around the world had signed the petition.
The petition was born after New York State in the United States became the latest region to introduce a legal ban on the shark fin trade. Other places to have passed a similar law include California, Hawaii, Brazil and Chile.
The message posted on the petition site says: "Countries around the world have laws that ban the sale and possession of shark fin, and more than 50 Hong Kong conservation groups joined to [call] on the Hong Kong government to listen and enact similar laws."
It says more than 10,200 tonnes of shark fins were imported into Hong Kong in 2011, and this trade had led to direct threats to many species of sharks around the world.
"Banning shark fins from the streets of Hong Kong will be the single most important marine conservation achievement of the year," the petitioners said. "It will also remove the stain on Hong Kong's reputation as a world-class tourism hub."
Hong Kong Shark Foundation director Bertha Lo Ka-yan, who is not involved in the action, said the petition was a bold move.
She said local conservation groups had attempted to push the government to sign a declaration promising that officials would not consume shark fins. But the government had been reluctant, saying it had already adopted shark fin-free menus.
"I think it's time now to have a total ban, instead of taking a step-by-step approach, which is too tedious," she said.
A spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Department said the government was committed to protecting endangered species, and implemented the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) through legislation, law enforcement and public education. It regulated the trading of shark species in accordance with the CITES requirements.