Shark finning: A Cruel Dish is Disappearing

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The trade in Shark Fins has declined in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is the world's shark fin capital, where about half of all fins are traded. But according to figures from the Hong Kong government imports last year of Shark fins dropped by a third.

For most Chinese, eating shark's fin still remains a status symbol. But as Malte Kollenberg reports young people are starting to view it differently.

This is how Shark fins are ‘harvested….
The fins are cut off a living shark and then the torso is thrown back into the ocean. Most of these fins from countries like Indonesia end up in Hong Kong.In 2008 around 10.000 tons of fins passed the city’s ports according to environmental organization Oceana.

INTV (English): Stanley Shea, Activist with French founded Bloom Association
“In Hong Kong in the old times they provided banquets which is all settled by the restaurant and the fin is always included in the banquet. So it leaves the customer, they actually have no choice to remove the dishes from the banquet set.”

But things started to change three years ago.
Under pressure from Environmental groups Governments in Hong Kong and Mainland China have stopped serving shark fins at official banquets. And big corporations as well as hotel chains are announcing they will take shark fin soup off their menus.

INTV (English): Stanley Shea, Activist with French founded Bloom Association
“We have been talking to corporate and also hotels and restaurants. And we found in Hong Kong now awareness has been increased and many hotels and restaurants now offer something alternative in the banquet menus so people can choose not to have it.”

According to the World Wildlife Fund, appetite for the fins and other shark-related products has led to some shark species falling in numbers by 60-70%.
But in March this year five more species of Shark were added to the Washington Convention, ensuring endangered species are not threatened by overfishing and trade.This means tradingof eightshark speciesis not possible without official documentation anymore.
Here is the Sheung Wan District …. Shark Fins are still openly being sold.

But small shops merchants say business lately is slow and they are reluctant to talk about shark fins on camera…it has become a sensitive topic.But not far away at restaurant Lin Heung Kui staff will still proudly tell you that shark fin soup is on the menu.

INTV(Cantonese): Unidentified employee in Restaurant
“We prepare and serve the fins in lots of ways - with a clear soup or with shredded chicken. It is definitely more popular at night. We offer an especially cheap deal at $88 at the moment, but sometimes people come to get more expensive dishes.”

Shark fin soup has been the food of the rich and wealthy for hundreds of years in China. Consumption of the fins is said to increase health.

But anthropologist Veronica Mak says generational change is taking place.

INTV (English): Veronica Mak, Anthropologist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong
“Not consuming shark fins becomes a signifier to show you are a social responsible person. In the past people made shark fins a signifier in a banquet, but nowadays this signifier changes.”

Activists believe that awareness and education is the key to change consumer behavior. And less demand for shark fins here will result in fewer sharks left for dead in the world’s oceans.

Video footage of fishermen "harvesting" fins is courtesy of Greenpeace. The footage was licensed from Greenpeace to be included into the video report.

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