While a Lunar New Year family dinner may be a happy occasion, sharks aren’t necessarily sharing our joy. These days, shark fin banquets may sound like a cliché, but currently, Hong Kong accounts for half of the global trade in shark fins, with more than 85 per cent of restaurants in the city offering the delicacy on their Lunar New Year menu.
More than 73 million sharks are killed each year. With the discussion about shark fins having been going on for decades, how is the trade still flourishing? Should the government ban it, or at least impose a quota?
The shark fin trade causes substantial harm. Not only is it extremely cruel to cut off a shark’s fin and then toss it back into the water where it is left to die, the practice causes immense damage to the ecosystem.
Hong Kong makes up for 50 per cent of the global shark fin trade - here's why you should get involved in stopping it
Claiming that it is a tradition does not work, because firstly, the consumption of shark fin does not appear to have been the norm in the past, and secondly, it simply doesn’t embody the values and traditions cherished during Lunar New Year. Reunion dinners are about family and friendship. Even if we accept that shark fins are part of a tradition, that doesn’t mean we cannot adjust our customs to adapt to present-day issues.
For most people, there is already a strong enough reason to stop eating shark fins. Yet, the fact that so many restaurants still serve shark fin dishes must mean the demand is still very high. Why is this? The problem is that while young people are aware of this issue, the older generations are not. Educating people about the environmental impact of eating shark fin has had a limited impact.
Another reason to give up shark's fin soup: more than a third sold in Hong Kong comes from vulnerable or endangered species
So what about the government? Hong Kong embraces free trade and the government is reluctant to impose any trade barriers. This makes the city a great platform for the shark fin industry. However, countries with a free market, such as Canada, United States and many European nations, have banned the shark fin trade, so it means you can clamp down on the industry while upholding free trade principles.
The Hong Kong government is refusing to take any action simply because it fears a social backlash. Even if a proposed ban arouses public anger, shouldn’t the harm caused by the shark fin trade be enough to persuade our officials to push through legislation that would put an end to this shameful industry?
Hong Kong needs to face its responsibility to the international community, and stop this cruel trade – right now.