Is the Shark-Fin Trade Facing Extinction?

A global campaign to end the harvesting and selling of shark’s fins, along with a crackdown within China on lavish banquets, where the fins were often served, is now seeing results. Chris Horton at The Atlantic reports from markets selling shark fins in Hong Kong:

Given the current state of the shark fin market, the proprietors have good cause to be grumpy. After years of booming business serving locals, mainland Chinese, and overseas Chinese populations, Hong Kong shark fin dealers have been hit by a drastic market downturn. Precise figures are difficult to come by, but government and industry estimates for 2012 showed the market shrinking by between 50 and 70 percent.

What accounts for the drop in demand? Many involved in the shark fin trade, including Hong Kong Shark Fin Trade Merchants Association chairman Ho Siu-chai, blame environmental groups and the media that broadcast their message. Ho even told the South China Morning Post that ‘Western’ conservation groups were engaged in an anti-Chinese conspiracy. Roughly one third of Hong Kong’s shark fin shops had closed down in recent years due to pressure from environmentalists, he added.

[…O]ver the last seven years, Yao [Ming] and WildAid’s message has reached a growing number of mainlanders, who previously knew little about shark fins. The gruesome process of harvesting fins resonated with an urban generation that has embraced environmental causes, and a major turning point arrived in the summer of 2012 when the Chinese government banned the serving of shark fin soup at all official functions.

Yao said that before saying no to shark fin soup, he had no idea how the fins were harvested. As soon as he learned about the finning process and the numbers of sharks killed by it, he said, he decided to take action with the hope that ordinary Chinese would do the same once they were informed. [Source]

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