Did you know that sharks have been around for more than 400 million years? That means they’ve been around even longer than dinosaurs (who only existed for about 65 million years).
In the past 60 years, there has been a sharp decline in the number of sharks in the world. According to the Hong Kong Shark Foundation (HKSF), some shark populations have declined by 90 per cent. The consumer demand across Hong Kong and China for shark fins is one of the main reasons why there are fewer sharks in the world.
The sharks face an agonising death because their fins are cut off, and then they are thrown back into the ocean. They can’t swim properly without their fins and sink to the bottom of the sea, where they are killed by other fish or suffocate.
The HKSF recently held a protest in Kennedy Town in an attempt to stop FedEx from shipping shark fins. Dressed in shark costumes and holding up signs, the protesters were there to highlight the cruelty involved in collecting the fins that are used in shark fin soup, a traditional Chinese delicacy.
According to HKSF chairwoman Andrea Richey, out of 2,000 Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong, 98 per cent of them still serve shark fin in some form or other.
How can you help save sharks? Richey spoke to Young Post about the top 10 things you can do to combat the decline of sharks (other than the obvious answer of “stop ordering shark fin soup”).
1 Help get the message out there on social media
Change could literally be a click away. Help raise awareness of this issue by sharing photos, videos and any sort of online content that highlights how cruel shark finning is.
2 Start a flash mob
If you’ve always thought the idea of being in a flash mob sounds amazing, then do it. Dress up in funny shark costumes, break out into song or take part in a huge dance-off – raising awareness of an issue doesn’t have to be boring. It might take some courage to do it but never be afraid to make a difference.
3 Start a campaign in your school
Don’t ever underestimate people power. It’s surprising how many people are unaware of how shark fin is collected, and how bad shark finning is. Sometimes encouraging the people around you to make a different choice in their lives is all that is needed.
4 Swim with sharks
Sounds scary, right? But as long as you choose a professional, qualified company, it’s quite safe. For your next holiday destination, choose a place where there are lots of sharks. Swimming with sharks encourages ecotourism and provides an incentive for local businesses to conserve sharks rather than destroy them.
Join one. Start your own. Even the act of parading down the road holding a sign counts.
6 Boycott restaurants that use shark fin
If you know that a restaurant is serving shark fin, raise awareness of shark finning with the people that you eat with. Tell them about the cruel practice and try to convince them to also stop going to the restaurant. If the restaurant sees a decline in customers, then they might stop serving shark fin.
7 Sign a petition OR make your own
If you think petitions aren’t useful, think again. Eleven-year-old Meara Johnson, a student from Clear Water Bay School, helped collect 1,837 signatures for a petition that called for a ban on the shipment of shark fins on Cathay Pacific flights. And it worked. Many organisations will already have petitions for you to share and sign. Or simply make your own petitions on websites like supporthk.org.
8 Start a fundraiser
There are a lot of organisations out there like the HKSF and WildAid that are fighting to save marine wildlife, but who rely on the public to donate money. Help them out by raising funds for them so that they can continue their work. Wash cars, organise a raffle competition – the possibilities are endless.
9 Donate your birthday money to a good cause
Instead of asking for another iTunes gift card this year, get your friends and family to donate cash to the cause. The HKSF, for instance, works with a company called twopresents, which allows you to invite people to an event and also request that they donate money instead of buying you anything.
10 Become a shark ambassador for your school
The HKSF has an amazing programme which allows students to become shark ambassadors. Host events at your school and organise fundraisers. Get the message out there. As a potential leader, now is the time for you to help shape the future of the world!