The Guardian optimistically reported over the weekend that Asia is starting to share the West’s disgust with shark-finning, a change that could be very good for the millions of sharks who face slaughter at sea every year just so someone can enjoy shark-fin soup.
John Vidal writes: “Six months after China banned the soup from all official banquets, the price of fins has fallen by 20-30% in Hong Kong, Macau and other major fishing markets. Some specialist restaurants in Beijing have changed their menus or closed down, and airlines and hotel chains have stopped serving the soup. Meanwhile, in Europe, California and elsewhere, loopholes that allowed shark finning to continue have been closed.”
All this represents major progress, because even though shark-fin soup is considered a delicacy, a dish reserved for celebrations and the upper classes, there’s been plenty of demand for shark fins. An estimated 75 to 100 million are believed to be killed each year just for their fins, which are sliced off at sea while the rest of the shark is left to die.
This brutal practice has been outlawed by countries around the world, including the oft laissez faire United States. Now that China is signing on to shark-conserving practices, the apex predators may have a chance to recover.
Dozens of environmental groups have been working to save sharks, many species of which are now critically endangered.
The group WildAid launched a “I’m FINished with Fins” campaign in Mainland China this past fall, recreating an effort that had already begun in Hong Kong, to raise awareness about the dire impacts of finning. The group signed up local celebrities and dignitaries to publicly pledge that they will refuse to eat shark fins, including the members of “Happy Camp,” a popular TV show in China, He Jiong, Xie Na, Li Weijia, Wu Xin, and Du Haitao.
WildAid reported in the fall that the South China Morning Post and the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong say that shark fin imports have declined from 10,292 tons to 3,087 tons from 2011 to 2012.
Sales of shark fin were down in 2013 by 50 percent, according to the chairman of the Hong Kong-based Shark Fin Trade Merchants Association, who was quoted in the South China Morning Post .