Shark protection needs more than losing taste for fin soup

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2016/6/24 0:48:00

The latest overall shark fin carriage ban announced by Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific has garnered showers of applause. But meanwhile, it also brought the debate over a stereotype - that as long as Chinese stop consuming shark fins, sharks will be protected worldwide, into public opinion focus again.

Without doubt, Cathay Pacific's decision deserves to be hailed. However, it is no longer reasonable to accuse China for the overfishing of sharks globally.

According to media outlets, imports of shark fin into Hong Kong have dropped 42 percent over the past five years. Shark fin exports from Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland plunged almost 90 percent in 2013 alone, the year the Chinese government published new regulations which banned delicacies, including shark fins, bird nests and wild animal products, from official reception dinners.

The celebrity effect is also playing a significant role in the dramatic decline of shark fin consumption in China. After a public service advertisement with the slogan "When the buying stops, the killing can too" featuring Yao Ming, former Chinese NBA star, launched in China, many people started to notice the negative consequences of consuming and hunting sharks.

A huge shift in peoples' awareness later occurred. In 2006, 75 percent of Chinese were not aware that the fins in their soup were actually from sharks and they called it "fish-wing soup." Nevertheless, in 2013, a survey showed that 82 percent of the interviewees claimed they would stop eating shark fin soup, while 91 percent voiced support for a ban on shark fin consumption nationwide.

All that indicates the market for the shark fin trade in China is shrinking remarkably. Still, the number of sharks being killed by overfishing shows little sign of decline. According to the World Wildlife Fund, over 70 million sharks are killed each year, while the Pew Environment Group revealed that Indonesia, India, Japan and European countries, including Spain and France, are among those who catch the most sharks.

The world has mistakenly believed that shark fin soup is the major cause of shark hunting, which is surely one of the crucial reasons, yet people have overlooked another trend - while the fins were imported to Asian nations, other parts of sharks were mostly transported to European and American countries, where there are huge markets for shark cartilage as well as shark liver oil.

More efforts and wisdom are needed to curb shark-hunting activities, in which China has already turned into a contributor in cutting down its market. Cathay Pacific's decision to ban all shark products on flights is another encouraging step. But all that is not enough. Hunting is still happening. It's time for those shark-catching countries to make more commitments toward protecting endangered species.

Posted in: Observer

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