Protection efforts strengthen in Hong Kong for sharks

Chinese Culture

Protection efforts strengthen in Hong Kong for sharks

As Chinese New Year celebrations get underway – a traditional dish is getting a makeover.

Many restaurants are offering vegan shark fin – to help conserve sharks.

CGTN’s Li Jiejun reports.

Shark fin soup, a popular dish in traditional wedding and birthday banquets in Hong Kong.

It is considered a luxury item, embodying notions of hospitality, status and good fortune.

However, the delicacy is dangerous for sharks and oceans.

Hong Kong is one of the world’s biggest markets for shark fins, and also the biggest trading hub – handling about half of the total global volume of shark fins auctioned every year.

Strong demand has led to sharks being targeted solely for their fins.

Every year, people kill more than 100 million sharks.

There are close to 500 shark species around the world. In 1996, only 15 species of sharks and related animals, like rays, were threatened. Now over 150 species are threatened by extinction.

Sharks have long life spans. They are slow to mature, produce few young, and are extremely vulnerable to over exploitation.

WWF Hong Kong has been running its “no shark fin” campaign since 2007. Over the past 10 years, consumption has shown some decrease, as more and more individuals say no to fins. However, the situation remains serious.

“Over the past five years, the shark fin import to Hong Kong keeps 5,700 tons, the amount of consumption in Hong Kong or transported to other countries is still very high. We are working to reduce the consumption, and we also persuade the shipping companies not to carry shark fin. We talked to the restaurants, asking why not ban shark fins in your restaurants, they said it’s quite difficult for them to do so, because shark fin is traditional banquet food.”, said Tracy Tsang the senior program officer at WWF.

Experts say involvement of the catering industry is crucial to promoting shark conservation. Chinese banquet caterers have shown few signs of improvement, but some hotels and clubhouses have removed shark fins from their menus.

“We stopped providing any fin-related dishes three years ago. Even if guests bring the fins themselves, we will not cook them. Before that, we could sell 500 kilograms of fins each month. At first, some of our old customers were disappointed. But they soon accepted it. We use other seafood to make soups that taste just like shark fin soups. So our business remains good., said Li Shu Tim the executive Chinese chef at Grand Hyatt Hong Kong.

Environmentalists hope more restaurants and seafood stores can join the campaign.

In the movies, sharks eat people. But the reality is that it’s humans who are threatening the sharks to extinction.

It’s time to save the sharks and the oceans, before it’s too late.

Peter Knights discusses shark protection