I was raised in Hong Kong, and it really is home for me. The city is amazing and has so much to offer, I’d recommend visiting to anyone. However, on my most recent visit, I saw a different side to the city.
I have always been aware of the problems in Hong Kong relating to shark finning; it’s one of the world’s largest finning hubs, despite a comparatively low abundance of sharks in the waters surrounding the island. I had never really seen the industry first-hand, so this trip I took the time to meet with the Hong Kong Shark Foundation (HKSF) and Bloom Associates. I discussed with them the key challenges in tackling shark finning which was truly insightful.
Across many different conservation issues it’s widely known that raising awareness and educating people is key – however, I learned that where that education comes from is also important. HKSF said that a key demand for shark fin soup primarily originates from its connotation with status, particularly at weddings the soup is often seen as a symbol of wealth. Thus, not to have it at your wedding may make the day less ‘impressive’ as per say, and even as an offense. Requests from the nuptials to their parents that they don’t want shark fin soup it is apparently regularly dismissed. Yet, if the grandchildren of the nuptials parents tell them the devastating effects of shark finning, they are more likely to listen. This illustrates the complexity of the problem, however, is only one tiny element of it. The problem is immense and has a myriad of factors which need to be tackled.
In this post I’ve included some of the photos I took whilst walking down one street in Hong Kong. Seeing shops compete with one another by displaying their bigger more ‘impressive’ fins in the windows was truly upsetting. On this street alone, there was an imaginable number of shark fins, manta gills, and whale shark fins. In addition to the shark fins stacked up in shops, it was hard to find Chinese restaurants which didn’t use fins in their dishes. The HKSF surveyed 375 restaurants in Hong Kong and found 98% of them served shark fin soup, a statistic I witnessed to be true as some evenings it would take over an hour to find a restaurant which didn’t serve shark fin soup.
Shark finning is truly unnecessary, wasteful, and actually tasteless. In addition, there is no scientific proof of medicinal benefits of shark fin soup – so why is there such a demand-based purely on social status? Shark finning kills 73 MILLION sharks every year (Mustain et al., 2016). Removing these apex predators and keystone species from ocean ecosystems will have devastating knock-on impacts. Immediate conservation efforts are needed, and perceptions need to drastically change.
If you’d like to know more about the impacts of shark finning on the environment please follow my blog! I’ll be writing myth-busting posts about how incredible sharks are, and how they aren’t ‘monsters’ of the sea like movies portray.
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- Mustain, P. Pfleger, M. Snyder, L. (2016) Oceana. Shark Fin Trade: Why it Should Be Banned in the United States. [Online] Available at: https://usa.oceana.org/publications/reports/shark-fin-trade-why-it-should-be-banned-united-states
- Hong Kong Shark Foundation: http://hksharkfoundation.org
- Bloom Associates: http://www.bloomassociation.org/en/