This blog was written by the director of ADMCF’s environment program, Sophie Le Clue
At the end of April, this blog highlighted research by HK Bloom Association into cultural attitudes to shark fin, which showed that Hong Kong is clearly ready for change when it comes to taking shark fin off food menus, despite the cultural sensitivity. During May the research went on to receive global media coverage being reported from the New York Times to Louisiana’s Bayou Buzz in the US, to the Telegram in Australia and the Bangkok Post in Thailand (to name a few)– not to mention widespread coverage across blogs and websites.
In an even earlier blog we illustrated that momentum against sharkfin in HK was building , and what’s clear now is that these efforts are intensifying across the world.
Just last week:
- Washington became the first State in the United States to prohibit the sale, purchase, trade, and preparation of shark fins. Similar legislation which is generating much controversy also looks imminent in California and Oregon.
- In Malaysia, the State Cabinet agreed with the Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun on the immediate need to include sharks in Sabah waters in the protected species list –it’s hoped this will be in force by year end.
- Sabah’s top hotels are already preparing for this leading conservation move and last week were reported to already be taking shark fin off menus – Hong Kong please take note… particularly in light of the Ritz Carlton’s recent announcement that its brand new Hong Kong hotel indeed intends to serve dish – suffice to say Hong Kong’s very active and effective shark conservation organisations (see previous blog – Hong Kong Campaign Against Shark Fin Soup gathers Strength ) are building momentum against this move by the Ritz.
- There were rumblings that Canada is also gearing up to enter the discussion. Brantford, a seemingly sleepy city in Ontario, will be debating this week on enacting a bylaw to prohibit the sale and consumption of all shark fin products (finning is already banned in Canada, but not the trade).
- Back to the US and Chinese basket ball superstar Yao Ming flew to Shanghai to receive WildAid’s International Ambassador award, in recognition of his public stand against shark fin in China.
All of these actions follow an unprecedented move in China, when in March, deputy to the National People’s Congress, Ding Liguo, proposed to ban the trade in shark fin – citing the unsustainability of the practice as well as its brutal nature. There are also indications that the public display of eating shark fin by China’s elites as a sign of wealth is beginning to irk those higher up.
And of course Hong Kongers also need a mention. Just yesterday at precisely 12.45am an eerie silence pervaded the “Avenue of Stars’ (a popular tourist destination on the harbor front) as 350 odd people ‘froze’ for five minutes in protest against the shark fin trade and consumption. This second ‘Freezemob’ organized by the Hong Kong Shark Foundation (HKSF) witnessed a near doubling of numbers from the first such event last year.
As tourists meandered in and out of 350 frozen statues curiously eyeing a variety of shark paraphernalia, behind them hundreds of fishing trawlers silently sailed into the harbour in protest against Hong Kong’s landmark trawling ban announced last week – a curious juxtaposition.
Perhaps Hong Kong will get it right and lead the way after all.