Image credit: Steve Garner.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’s (CITES) annual conference in Bangkok endorsed a proposal to add three more species of shark to an international treaty protecting endangered species, despite opposition from China and Japan.
Around 7 per cent of sharks are killed each year, according to a paper in the Marine Policy journal this year, an unsustainable amount that is threatening certain populations with extinction.
Governments will have 18 months to comply with the restrictions, agreed by a two-thirds majority of the countries at the CITES conference in Bangkok.
If countries are found to be non-compliant, they may be subject to sanctions that can cover trade in all CITES-listed species.
Shark fin traders based in Hong Kong, where an estimated 50 percent of the global fin trade takes place, said they would not be significantly affected by the measure:
Ricky Leung Lak-kee, chairman of the Hong Kong Marine Products Association, said it would be business as usual even after the restrictions were imposed.
“We will follow any rules laid down by CITES, which unlike other non-governmental organisations, does not call for a blanket ban on shark fin,” he said.
He estimated that about 8 to 9 per cent of shark fin imported to Hong Kong were of the restricted species. In 2011, the city imported about 10,000 tonnes of shark fin.
Tsang said that in a survey in 2006, overseas researchers had found through genetic tests that about 7 per cent of fin samples from the local market were the hammerhead and oceanic whitetip. About 17 per cent were blue sharks, which are not regulated by CITES.
Shark fin soup has fallen out of vogue in recent years. A series of protests in mainland China against the fin trade led to a number of hotels and restaurants to stop serving the dish. Activists in Hong Kong were outraged when it was revealed that many traders had moved the drying of shark fins to the city’s rooftops to avoid public anger.