. Earth Science News .

Hong Kong's shark fin traders feel pressure to change
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) Nov 27, 2011

Libya seizes Italian fishing trawler: ministry
Rome (AFP) Nov 26, 2011 - Libyan authorities have detained an Italian fishing boat, the foreign ministry in Rome said on Saturday, following months of civil conflict during which European trawlers fished in Libyan waters.

"A fishing trawler has been taken by the Libyan authorities," the foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that the Italian embassy in Tripoli had been activated "to promote a positive solution to this incident".

The ministry also said a second trawler "has been the object of attention of Libyan authorities", without specifying whether it had been detained.

An Italian trawler was seized on November 16 in the first such incident since Moamer Kadhafi's ousting. It was released four days later.

"We ask that the crews and boats be released immediately," Raffaele Lombardo, the governor of Sicily, said in a statement.

Coast guard officials cited by Italian news agency ANSA said the boats had been fishing in the Gulf of Sirte around 40 nautical miles (46 miles, 74 kilometres) from Misrata and one of them had four Italians on board.

Environmental groups and officials say European trawlers have taken advantage of the chaos in Libya this year to carry out illegal fishing in Libyan waters, particularly for prized bluefin tuna.

The owner of Shark's Fin City, a dried fin wholesaler in Hong Kong's quarter for all things shrivelled, says there are only a few people who know the truth about sharks, and he's one of them.

Like many Hong Kong businessmen who trade in shark fins, Kwong Hung-kwan believes his industry is being targeted by an anti-Chinese conspiracy led by "Western" environmental groups like Greenpeace.

Talk of a dramatic decline in shark populations around the world is rubbish, he says, dismissing research showing an eight-fold jump in threatened shark species since 2000.

Experts agree that much of that rise is linked to increases in consumption of shark meat, especially fins used in traditional Chinese shark fin soup, an expensive staple at weddings and banquets in this southern Chinese city.

"Shark fins represent our Chinese tradition. It used to be served only to royalty and is, even now, a very luxurious cuisine from the deep sea," Kwong told AFP at his store in Hong Kong's Des Voeux Road area.

The western end of Des Voeux Road and nearby Queen's Road West, not far from the Central business district, are a hive of musty shops selling a vast array of dried food from mushrooms to seahorses.

It is ground zero for the global shark fin trade, with about 10,000 tonnes of dried fins imported every year, according to environmental group WWF. That's around half the world's total fin harvest.

"For some people in the older generation like me, we depend on selling shark fins as our source of income," Kwong said. His fins come mainly from Spain and South America, but he will happily buy from anywhere, he said.

Businessmen like Kwong and his neighbours on Des Voeux Road were shocked last week when the luxury Peninsula Hotels chain, owned by Asia's oldest hotel company, announced it was dropping shark fin from its menu as of January.

Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd., Peninsula's parent, said the decision was made "in recognition of the threat facing the global shark population and in line with the company's sustainability vision".

Conservationists applauded the move as a breakthrough in their long battle to get Asian consumers to "just say no" to shark fin soup. But some of those in the fin business were apoplectic.

"It's not cruel at all killing sharks. There are so many sharks out there and if you don't kill them, they will kill you," said a Des Voeux Road fin seller who gave his name only as Chan.

On the other hand, Wong Wai-man of Wing Hang Marine Products Ltd. acknowledged that times were changing and younger generations were more environmentally conscious about what they ate than older Hong Kong people.

"Some people say shark fins are absolutely irreplaceable. But what happens when sharks one day become extinct or are illegal to catch? At the end of the day, we need alternatives," he said, suggesting birds' nests as a substitute.

WWF-Hong Kong says the consumption of shark fins, which has grown as China's people have become more affluent, is a driving factor behind the threat to shark populations around the world.

More than 180 species were considered threatened in 2010 compared with only 15 in 1996. About 73 million of the ancient predators, deemed essential to healthy marine ecosystems, are killed every year.

An individual serving of shark fin soup includes about 30 grams (one ounce) of fin, and a 12-person bowl sells for HK$1,080 (about $140). A kilogram (two pounds) of premium dried fin can fetch up to HK$10,000 in Hong Kong.

On Des Voeux Road, giant dried shark fins are shop-window attractions, the bigger the better to draw in customers.

Other major hotels in Hong Kong said they were reviewing their shark fin policies in the wake of the Peninsula's move, but few appeared ready to drop it from their menu entirely.

Four Seasons Hotel spokeswoman Claire Blackshaw said that shark fin had been removed from the menu but was still available on request. "We are a popular venue for weddings so it gets requested quite a lot," she said.

The Conrad, part of the Hilton group, the Nikko and Regal Hongkong hotels have similar policies, with some offering a choice of menus with and without shark fin dishes.

The Peninsula's announcement coincided with a move from the European Commission to insist that all vessels fishing in EU waters, and EU vessels fishing elsewhere, land sharks with the fins still attached.

"We want to eradicate the horrendous practice of shark finning and protect sharks much better," said Europe's fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki, referring to the common practice of cutting the fins off living sharks.

Activists said a ban on finning would reduce the shark catch because fishing vessels would not be able to store as many fins in their freezers.

Related Links
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries

The shark, a predator turned prey
Bergen, Norway (AFP) Nov 25, 2011 - Sharks may strike terror among swimmers at the beach but the predators are increasingly ending up as prey, served up in fish-and-chips shops, sparking concern among environmentalists.

The great white shark, the one that most frequently comes to mind, is a protected species -- though that hasn't prevented its stocks from declining -- but tens of millions of other sharks are caught each year by fishermen.

Why are they in such demand? Their fins are the main ingredient in shark fin soup, a prestigious dish in traditional Chinese cuisine, and even in Europe shark meat is often served to consumers, usually without their knowledge.

"People don't realise they're eating shark because it's not called shark, but they are," Sonja Fjordham, the head of Shark Advocates International, told AFP on the sidelines of an international conference this week on migratory species in Bergen, Norway.

The name can be misleading: "rock salmon" often sold in fish and chips shops in Britain, Australia and elsewhere is actually a small type of shark called spiny dogfish.

Ecologists' main concern is the practice known as "finning", when fishermen cut the fins off of sharks and then throw the fish back in the water, usually still alive and leaving them to a certain death by drowning, suffocation, blood loss or to be devoured by other fish.

In Asia, where shark fin soup is a sign of status and social standing, a fin can cost several hundred dollars (euros).

"It's as if you cut the arms and the legs off of a person. It's just a torso. Without fins, they can't swim, they can't breathe, they can't eat, they just sink to the bottom," explains Rebecca Regnery, the deputy director of the Humane Society International.

Finning, which is often carried out on by-catches but also targetted ones, weighs heavily on species that have slow reproduction patterns.

Bans on the practice exist in many countries but are often ignored.

In a bid to help put an end to the practice, the European Commission recently proposed to tighten its legislation by requiring boats fishing in EU waters and EU-based ships fishing anywhere in the world to "unload sharks with the fins attached to their bodies."

"Banning finning is a no-brainer because it's such a huge waste," said Fjordham.

However, she added, "not finning alone is not going to save the sharks. We need to reduce the catches."

At the top of the food chain, sharks are indispensable for keeping the oceans' ecosystems in check. Scientists don't even dare consider the consequences if the animals were to disappear entirely, a fate faced by 20 percent of shark species, according to Fjordham.

Palau, a small archipelago in the Pacific, has set a good example, making the most of its shark population by creating a sanctuary that has become a popular ecotourist site.

Diving with sharks now accounts for eight percent of Palau's gross domestic product (GDP), each animal bringing in 1.9 million dollars throughout its lifetime, according to the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences.

Palau remains however an isolated example. Elsewhere, the trend is alarming.

The giant manta ray, a cousin of the shark, has also fallen victim to a similar fate: prized in Asia, it is turned into a powder used in traditional Chinese medicine.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Association, catches of manta rays have more than tripled in recent years, from 900 tonnes in 2000 to 3,300 tonnes in 2007.

In Bergen on Friday, the UN Convention on Migratory Species added giant manta rays to its lists of protected species.

Manta rays could generate some 100 million dollars in ecotourism revenue worldwide each year, according to experts.


. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Australia plans world's biggest marine protection zone
Sydney (AFP) Nov 25, 2011
Australia plans to establish the world's biggest marine protection zone to safeguard a huge swathe of the Coral Sea, a biodiversity hotspot brimming with life, the government said Friday. The proposed Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve off the northeast of Australia would cover about 990,000 square kilometres (380,000 square miles) - an area more than one-a-half times the size of France. ... read more

Thai minister survives flood censure vote

Japan nuclear plant director sick: company

Misery lingers for Bangkok's 'forgotten' flood victims

Central America storms caused $2 bln in damage

Kindle sales quadrupled on Black Friday: Amazon

Mapheus-3 - spherules, metals and microgravity

Recycle this: Bolivian turns waste into high fashion

Carbon nanotube forest camouflages 3d objects

Plan for crucial Australian rivers draws anger

Hong Kong's shark fin traders feel pressure to change

EBRD grants 123-million-euro loan for Croatia hydro station

Water doesn't have to freeze until minus 55 Fahrenheit

Study: Arctic ice melting 'unprecedented'

Iceland says no to Chinese tycoon's land purchase: ministry

Carbon cycling was much smaller during last ice age than in today's climate

Gamburtsev Mountains enigma unraveled in East Antarctica

Japan's rice farmers mull TPP future

French court annuls ban on Monsanto GM crops

Climate set to worsen food crises: Oxfam

China govt under fire over new food bacteria rule

19 hurricanes in third-most active Atlantic season

Faroe Islands hit by hurricane

Thailand counts cost of monster floods

Quakes hit Japan

South Sudan in fresh battle to disarm civilians

Ethiopia dragged back into Somali quagmire

French soldiers join hunt for hostages seized in Mali

Gambia's Jammeh headed for landslide poll win

New evidence of interhuman aggression and human induced trauma 126,000 years ago

Mimicking the brain, in silicon

Moderate drinking and cardiovascular health: here comes the beer

Is a stranger genetically wired to be trustworthy? You'll know in 20 seconds


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement