By Leya Musa
The export of shark fins from Hong Kong to China has crashed by 90% in just a year. Following the new austerity of the Chinese leadership, increasing changes in taste among the young and pressure from campaign groups the trade in shark fins is shrinking rapidly.
Official government figures analysed by the WWF-China show that in 2012 1.2 million kilogrammes of shark fin was exported to mainland China but last year the figure had dropped to just 113,974 kilogrammes. Mainland China dropped from being Hong Kong’s number one re-export market to fourth position.
The overall market though has not seen such a big drop. The total amount of shark fins imported by Hong Kong saw a 35% fall.
Re-exports of shark fin from Hong Kong fell just 17.5% which would suggest that either stockpiles of shark fin were being called on or there was increasing pressure on the local shark fisheries to make up the difference.
Imports of shark fin to Hong Kong in 2012 were 8,285 tonnes in 2012 and this fell to 5,412 tonnes in 2013 – the lowest level of imports in over 10 years.
“We were very surprised when we saw this figure as the mainland has traditionally been Hong Kong’s biggest re-export market,” WWF-Hong Kong senior programme director Tracy Tsang Chui-chi told the South China Morning Post.
“We do not rule out the possibility that the central government’s anti-corruption measures could have played a role in the big drop in re-exports.”
International bad boy of wildlife – Vietnam – appears to be a growing market for processed shark fin and last year was a bigger market for shark fin exporters than China. Campaigners are not sure why Vietnam is becoming such a large market for the delicacy as it has no cultural or historic reasons for shark fin consumption.
A spokesperson for the local shark-finners association said that traders had seen a 20% to 30% drop in business over the last 12 months and that import prices had crashed by 60% in the last year as demand contracted.