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Shark fins. (Photo: Stock File)

Shark fin trade experiences sharp drop

Click on the flag for more information about Hong Kong HONG KONG
Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 04:10 (GMT + 9)

The volume of shark fin products imported into Hong Kong in 2013 dropped from 8,285.1 tonnes to 5,412.2 tonnes, representing 34.7 per cent, according to the latest figures from the Census and Statistics Department.

Another decrease was that in re-export volumes, which changed from 2,428 tonnes to 2,003.7 tonnes (17.5 per cent), and a notable decline in shark fin re-export volumes to China, amounting to 90 per cent, with Vietnam becoming the top re-export destination in 2013, World Wildlife Fund-Hong Kong reported.

The drop could have something to do with China’s ongoing austerity campaign, launched in 2013, which has pointedly cracked down on extravagance among party and government officials. In December last year, the central government officially banned the consumption of shark fin soup at government events, International Business Times reported.

It has also been informed that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’s (CITES) decision to include more shark species in its Appendix II was ratified, and Hong Kong government should now be preparing to follow the updated CITES requirements.

“For CITES implementation, the government should improve the existing HKHS [Hong Kong Harmonized System ] codes, following the coding practice used for bluefin tuna, to allow for the identification of shark species that need to be tracked. Scientific identification, through DNA testing of randomly-sampled shark fins, could also be deployed for verification purposes. To better regulate the shark fin trade and improve its transparency, WWF calls on the Hong Kong government to begin collecting and releasing full statistics on the shark fin trade, including the species, volumes and countries of origin,” Tracy Tsang, WWF’s Senior Programme Officer for Shark remarked.

Ricky Leung Lak-kee, chairman of the Hong Kong Marine Products Association, pointed out the local shark fin industry had been hit hard by the fall in demand in mainland China. And he added that the industry had suffered a 60 per cent decline in shark fin import prices and a roughly 20 to 30 per cent drop in business over the past year.

Besides, Leung rejected suggestions that the local shark fin trade was hurting the environment and he stated that about two-thirds of Hong Kong imports were from blue sharks, which were not listed as an endangered species under CITES.

Nevertheless, sharks still face threats. In January, the Hong Kong-based conservation group WildLifeRisk published a report on a factory that processes around 600 whale sharks annually, calling it the world’s biggest slaughterhouse for the endangered species.

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