Hong Kong activists demand end to shark fin soup | News | DW | 10.06.2017
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Hong Kong activists demand end to shark fin soup

Protesters have called on one of Hong Kong's most well-known restaurants to stop serving the jelly-like delicacy. Despite government's efforts, the illegal import of fins continues, threatening many species.

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These Hong Kong protestors want an end to shark fin sales

Diners at Maxim's Palace in Hong Kong on Saturday found their meal of dim sum unexpectedly accompanied by a side of protest.

Dozens of activists donned bloody, finless shark costumes before dumping the hacked-off costume fins outside the restaurant's entrance and proceeding to flop around on the ground. Some also shouted "Maxim's stop selling shark fins" and waved signs reading "Support sharks, no shark fin."

The protesters, many of them children, aimed to draw attention to the sale and consumption of shark fin soup that has contributed to putting many shark species on on the endangered list.

Shark fin is a highly-prized food for many Chinese and is eaten at special events and banquets. In Hong Kong, the demand for the delicacy is among highest in the world.

Read: More than half of all shark species in Mediterranean at risk of extinction

Haifischflossensuppe (picture-alliance/dpa)

Shark fin soup is a status symbol throughout much of Asia

'Take action now before it is too late'

The protest was organized by WildAid, a San Francisco-based conservation group that seeks to end illegal wildlife trade through consumer persuasion. Announcing the protest on Facebook, the organizers stressed that Maxim's Group is Hong Kong's largest restaurant chain with more than 70 locations in the city that still sell shark fin soup.

"We need to protect them, because if they go extinct it would just disrupt the whole ocean diversity, the biodiversity of the ocean. Our ocean is in a lot of trouble, and scientists think, by 2049, our ocean stock will be depleted. So we have to take action now before it's too late," WildAid organizer Rosanna Ng said.

The group also encouraged its social media followers to post protest messages on Maxim's Facebook page. 

In response to the action, Maxim's stated that shark consumption at their restaurant had fallen since they began to promote a shark-free menu seven years ago. When shark is on the menu, the fins are always sourced sustainably, the restaurant added.

Umweltaktivisten protestieren vor einem Restaurant in Hong Kong (Reuters/B. Yip)

Young and old alike descended on Maxim's diners to protest shark fin consumption

Illegal trade

A high volume of shark fin enters Hong Kong every year, and much of it is subsequently exported to China. The city requires a permit for species listed as endangered on the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Nevertheless, conservations groups believe that a large ammount of illegal shark fin is still being imported illegally. 

In March 2017, the Hong Kong government reported it had seized around 1,200 kg of illegally-imported dried shark fins.

Haifischflossen (picture-alliance/dpa)

Illegal shark fins are often mis-labeled in cargo ships

In 2013, the Hong Kong government announced it would cease serving shark fin soup at official events in order to set "a good example."

There are around 400 species of sharks in the world. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, one quarter of all sharks face extinction.

Over 70 million sharks are killed every year, the World Wildlife Foundation reports.

Read: CITES conservation body gives sharks protection

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