While the taste for shark-fin has plummeted in China, according to the international conservation organisation, other Asian countries including those that encourage dive-tourism, such as Indonesia and Thailand, are now seeing a rise in domestic consumption of the soup.
“As younger generations of Chinese abandon shark-fin soup, this year’s Lunar New Year celebrations are less likely to feature it,” said WildAid CEO Peter Knights.
“While consumers in mainland China have changed their behaviour in response to awareness campaigns and a government banquet ban, shark-fin soup remains on the menu in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and consumption is growing in places like Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Macau.”
WildAid is calling on the catering sectors in all countries to drop shark-fin from menus, and for transport companies that still carry shark-fin as cargo, including FedEx, to desist. It is also asking Hong Kong’s biggest restaurant chain, Maxim’s, to stop selling shark-fin soup.
“New and continuing markets for shark meat and liver oil also drive illegal and unsustainable harvest, while millions more die as bycatch on longlines and purse-seine nets targeting commercial species such as tuna and swordfish,” says the report.
It warns consumers to recognise the potential health hazards posed by toxic chemicals likely to be present in shark-fins, meat and oil, and says that these risks outweigh any purported benefits.
The report accuses the tuna-fishing industry of having done little to protect against shark by-catch. “Until tuna companies improve their fishing practices, consumers must be diligent when buying tuna,” said Knights.
The 80% decline in China’s shark-fin consumption has occurred since WildAid started running educational campaigns featuring personalities such as actor Jackie Chan, basketball player Yao Ming, Sir Richard Branson and David Beckham.
“Without sharks, the entire ocean eco-system can collapse, and humans are sure to witness the consequences, as food sources we depend on disappear,” concludes the report.
“In order to save our oceans, we must urgently address the multitude causes of shark species’ declines.”
Sharks in Crisis: Evidence of Positive Behavioural Change in China as New Threats Emerge can be read here.
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