We have some encouraging news for you out of Hong Kong – the government of Hong Kong announced that it will no longer serve shark fin soup at government functions, and that it will encourage government-funded bodies to do the same. Hong Kong is one of the world’ s largest markets for shark fins, and with more than half of the world’s fin trade passing through Hong Kong, it is considered the capital of the global shark fin trade, making this ban particularly salient.
The brutal practice of shark finning involves slicing off a shark’s fins, often while the shark is still alive, then tossing the shark back into the water to drown or bleed to death. Shark meat is far less valuable than their fins, which means that their bodies take up precious cargo space, creating an incentive to only keep the most valuable parts and allowing more sharks to be caught and killed on each trip. The United States and European Union have already banned the practice of shark finning in their respective waters, but finning still occurs around the world, driven by the demand for shark fins.
Approximately 100 million sharks are killed each year in fishing operations, primarily to support the demand for shark fin soup. At the rate of one hundred million sharks killed every year, humans may wipe out some shark populations out entirely in the coming decades if we don’t change something.
Although the government of Hong Kong’s announcement is an encouraging step in the right direction, it is by no means a final victory for sharks as sharks continue to be killed for their fins around the world. But we are seeing progress, including the announcement last year when the government of China announced a similar ban on serving shark fin soup at official banquets. The announcement, however, will likely take years to come into effect.
In banning shark fin soup, “the government of Hong Kong is announcing to the world that sharks are worth more in the ocean than in a bowl of soup,” said Oceana campaign director Beth Lowell. Only when we choose to leave sharks in the oceans will populations start to recover to healthy levels. Reducing the demand for shark fins is an important first step to help shark populations recover.