New government guidelines take shark fin off the menu in Hong Kong: Hong Kong steps forward to protect sharks – 16 September 2013

HONG KONG – The Hong Kong Environment Bureau released a press release today detailing guidelines sent recently to government departments recommending they not consume shark fin, black moss and bluefin tuna at official functions.

“The Government is determined to take the lead and set a good example on this front that goes beyond the minimum expectation as laid down in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),” a Government spokesman said today.

The undersigned conservation groups applaud the government and praise Chief Executive for taking this action, which we consider a positive step toward stemming the consumption of shark fin in Hong Kong.

Emma Kong, program manager at Hong Kong Shark Foundation said: “We welcome this forward-thinking action from the government. The momentum behind shark conservation in Hong Kong has been building for years. Today’s decision is another important milestone towards ending shark mortality globally.”

Joshua Reichert, executive vice president of The Pew Charitable Trusts, said: “We congratulate the Hong Kong government for taking leadership to protect shark and bluefin tuna populations that are globally at risk. This announcement is particularly significant as Hong Kong is the world’s largest shark fin market, representing approximately 50 percent of the global trade. In addition, a recent stock assessment of Pacific bluefin indicated that the population has declined by about 96 percent.”

The fins of up to 73 million sharks are traded each year. Scientists warn that the rate of fishing for sharks, many of which grow slowly and reproduce late in life, is unsustainable.

Sharks help maintain marine habitats such as coral reefs and help maintain ocean health by regulating the variety and abundance of species below them in the food chain, including commercially important fish species.

A study of cultural attitudes toward shark fin in 2011 by Bloom and the Hong Kong University Social Sciences Research Centre showed that 88 percent of respondents believed the Hong Kong government should prohibit the sale of products that involve killing endangered species. More than 75 percent said it would be acceptable not to include shark fin in a wedding menu.

Over the past two years, an estimated 60 percent of Hong Kong’s top hotels have taken shark fin soup off their menus or serve the dish only upon request in response to concerns regarding the health of our oceans. In addition, at least 159 companies have signed WWF’s shark-free pledge, committing not to serve shark products at business functions. Several regional airlines, including Cathay Pacific, have said they will no longer transport shark fin.

Governments globally are moving to protect dwindling shark populations. Since 2009, many countries have created shark sanctuaries that ban the commercial fishing of sharks and prohibit the sale, trade and possession of shark products.

In March of this year, proposals to list five species of sharks and all species of manta rays in Appendix II of the Convention on the International trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) were adopted by a two-thirds vote of the 177 countries that are Parties to CITES. The new protections are set to take effect in September 2014.

According to trade data from the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong, 83 countries exported more than 10.3 million kilograms (22.7 million pounds) of shark fin and related products to Hong Kong in 2011. With shark fishing countries from around the world supplying fins to the Hong Kong market, effective shark management must be global, including all areas where sharks are caught.

For and on behalf of:
BLOOM Hong Kong
HK Shark Foundation
Humane Society International
Man and Shark
Shark Rescue
Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals Hong Kong (SPCA-HK)
Sharon Kwok, ACE Foundation

Editor’s Notes
• Since the announcement on Friday September 13, the Hong Kong government’s action has received international recognition. Iris Ho, wildlife program manager of Humane Society International, said: “As Hong Kong is a major global hub for wildlife trade and consumption, the government’s decision signals a strong commitment to environmental sustainability. The decision is also a testament to the persistent efforts by local organizations to raise awareness. The Hong Kong government and members of the public and civil society can take pride in asserting a role of environmental leadership for the region.”

• In early 2013, HKSF launched a petition in conjunction with a number of shark
conservation groups asking the government to take action to reduce public sector
consumption of shark fin. To date, there are more than 10,000 signatures.

• A March 2013 study showed that approximately 100 million sharks are killed annually, and that sharks are being killed at an unsustainable rate.

• Hong Kong Shark Foundation (HKSF) is a Hong Kong based charity dedicated to raising awareness of the plight of sharks and to reducing consumption of shark products, primarily sharks fin soup. Our message is one of sustainability. Healthy oceans need healthy shark populations to maintain the delicate balance of their marine ecosystems.
Yet over one third of all shark species are already listed as threatened or near threatened with extinction1. This is due, in part, to over-fishing driven by an unsustainable demand for shark fin soup. As over half of the world’s shark fin is traded through Hong Kong, HKSF believes that the people of Hong Kong have the power to make a positive difference in this global issue.

• Part of MYOCEAN Limited, a registered charity in Hong Kong, HKSF is also a member of the global shark conservation organisation Shark Alliance and works collaboratively with like-minded organisations both in Hong Kong and around the globe.

1 IUCN Red List 2010

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