By David Jolly
Hong Kong bowed Friday to years of pressure from environmental groups, saying it would no longer allow shark fin to be served at official functions.
The authorities are “determined to take the lead and set a good example on this front,” a government statement said. The initiative goes “beyond the minimum expectation laid down” in the United Nations treaty that governs trade in threatened species, the statement said, and it also applies to bluefin tuna and black moss, a type of algae popular in Asian cuisine.
Scientists estimate that as many as 100 million sharks are killed each year, mostly for their fins, which are typically served in soup. The practice is widely considered cruel and wasteful, because the sharks are often thrown overboard, finless, to die. Hong Kong is the world’s biggest trade hub for shark fins, representing about 50 percent of the trade.
In March, member nations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, a United Nations treaty also known as Cites, called for trade in five shark species — oceanic whitetips, scalloped hammerheads, two other types of hammerheads, and porbeagles — to be carefully tracked and shown to have been conducted legally. That has put shark fin consumers in Hong Kong, mainland China and elsewhere in an awkward spotlight.
Last year, China said it would prohibit official banquets from serving shark fin soup, but the measure was expected to need as many as three years to take effect, and even then, compliance may be uneven. More....