As the Hong Kong Shark Foundation (HKSF) gears up for its annual Cocktails for Change fundraiser this Wednesday, we take a look at the shocking reality of the shark fin trade in Hong Kong, and bust the biggest myths along the way.
Walk into any banquet hall in Hong Kong and pick up a menu, and chances are Shark Fin Soup will make an appearance. What began as purely a delicacy for emperors and the wealthy back in the Song Dynasty (960AD-1279AD) is a custom still very much alive in Hong Kong today. Ordered as a symbol of wealth, respect, and generosity to guests, shark fin soup is consumed to mark a celebration – but it doesn’t end there.
A survey released by the Foundation in January this year revealed that over 98 percent of the 375 restaurants surveyed in Hong Kong serve the traditional dish, some of which have already promised to be shark-free. This goes against common assumptions that shark fin consumption is on the decline in the region – in fact, over 50 percent of the world’s shark fins are traded through Hong Kong alone.
This leads to some pretty frightening statistics, given the fact that over 100 million sharks are caught worldwide for their fins and other products, often using illegal, unregulated, and cruel methods, whereby they are caught, have their fins sliced off, and thrown back into the sea to die a slow, painful death. It is even more shocking to learn that 85 percent of the menus that serve the product are heavily linked to species threatened with extinction, which currently sits at 25 percent.
The Foundation has been working hard to change the tides by reducing the consumption of shark fin in Hong Kong and raising awareness about shark conservation through protests, educating school children, and government lobbying. However, with no government ban on shark products in Hong Kong, and no guarantee that the products served in our city’s restaurants do not fall under the “endangered” category, it seems that the power to change the situation for the better lies with our city’s people – a message they are striving to convey.
“Hong Kong people are consuming a lot more shark fin than we think,” says Joan Chan, campaign director for Hong Kong Shark Foundation. “We believe that the public may not be “walking the talk” and passively consuming shark fin, since it is on nearly all set menus we surveyed. We call on the Hong Kong public to help conserve these important marine species and send a strong signal to the retailers of shark fin, by demanding shark fin-free menus and by not consuming shark fin soup.”
According to Chan, one of the main reasons that Hong Kongers may not be “walking the talk” are the myths that surround shark fin soup, so in the name of conservation, we decided to help bust them:
To fund their activities for the next year, the Foundation need to raise $500,000 and they are relying on you to help them smash this target by attending their Cocktails for Change event on Wednesday, March 9 at Club PLAY. Click here to find out more about the event, and visit their website to find out how you can help them with their cause.