China is the global epicenter of the shark fin trade, but surprising statistics show that reputation (along with the shark finning industry) may be on its way out.
According to the Hong Kong chapter of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the volume of shark fin products imported into Hong Kong in 2013 dropped by a whopping 35 percent – from 8,285.1 tonnes to 5,412.2 tonnes. Export of processed shark fins out of Hong Kong also decreased by nearly 18 percent. That drop is even more pronounced when looking at the volume of shark fins shipped from Hong Kong to other parts of China.
Shark fins, which are typically stripped from the still live animal, are used to make the Asian delicacy shark fin soup. But as Care2′s Piper Hoffman recently reported in late 2013, "[t]here is evidence that consumption of shark fin soup has dropped in China by 50 to 70 percent since 2011."
This is excellent news for global shark populations which are being exterminated by humans at a horrifying rate. Washington Post reports that shark finning has put "10 of the 14 species of oceanic sharks most commonly fished for their fins" at "very high" or "high" risk of extinction, while the remaining four are getting close to the same status.
It also shows that shark finning bans around the world are working, both to expose the barbaric, wasteful practice and create awareness of the ecological impact.
In the past few years, governments around the world have made it illegal to sell, trade or possess shark fins. In the United States, California, Oregon and New York have all taken a strong stand against the gruesome technique. The shark finning industry, supported by some Asian American advocacy groups, tried to overturn California's ban, but the case was dismissed in federal court. Internationally, Costa Rica, the European Union and India have enacted similar shark finning bans. It's not only governments. In March, the Hilton hotel group announced a ban on the controversial delicacy in its restaurants and facilities worldwide – including 96 properties in the Asia Pacific
In Hong Kong itself, the government took a stand by announcing that shark fin soup would no longer be served at official banquets. Trickle-down effects from this move is likely more of a driving factor for decline in Chinese demand than anything else. "Shark-free banquets have become more popular over the past two years," explained famous wedding planner, Mr. Tim Lau in a WWF press release. "At least 20 per cent more wedding couples now choose shark-free banquets. Some of them even do so because their parents came up with the idea."
Although the decline is encouraging, it's only the beginning of what we must do to protect sharks. Take action by signing the below petition for a worldwide ban on shark finning. Not sure why you should care? Check out these Care2 posts to learn why sharks are so important.