NOTE: This is a guest post from Iris Ho, wildlife campaign manager for Humane Society International. She manages the campaign to eradicate cruel shark finning through legislation and increased consumer awareness. Campaign expansion is focused in Asia, the largest market for shark fins.
The practice of shark finning — where a live shark’s fins are sliced off and they’re thrown back to the ocean to die — is one of the most egregious forms of wildlife abuse and wasteful fishing practices. Tens of millions of sharks are killed every year to supply the global demand for shark fins to be used in shark fin soup. Because sharks sit atop (or near the top) of our ocean ecosystems, they are critical to the health of the oceans, helping regulate the vibrancy and variety of the species below them in the marine food web. When sharks are gone, so are our oceans.
Over the past few years, the global plight of sharks has gained prominent attention with a growing momentum to protect sharks across the world. This past year, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act into law to close existing loopholes on shark finning. The European Commission adopted a strong draft legislative proposal to end shark finning. Taiwan, the fourth largest shark catching country in the world, has also enacted regulations to outlaw shark finning. Several Central American countries adopted regional regulations beginning this year to strengthen the region’s shark protection and management measures.
Even in Asia, where 90% of the world’s shark fins are traded and consumed, we are seeing an emerging constituency, particularly from younger generations, advocating the shunning of this cruel and unsustainable food product.
On January 23, the weeklong traditional Lunar/Chinese New Year celebrations begins. The New Year is the most important festival amongst the Chinese communities across Asia and around the world. It is a special occasion for families, friends and businesses to celebrate the coming of the New Year with elaborate and celebratory dishes, such as shark fin soup.
However, the tide is turning for the sharks.
Advocates in China and elsewhere in Asia, such as Singapore, have called for doing away with this unsavory tradition. Recently, Humane Society International joined a broad coalition of Chinese conservation and environmental organizations, public figures, businesses and restaurants and launched “2012 Fin Free Lunar New Year” campaign in Beijing. Over 100 organizations and businesses have pledged not to consume shark fin soup during their celebrations this year. More and more high profile restaurants and hotels in China have joined the No Shark Fin movement and have stopped selling shark fin soup.
Please join us in supporting our partners and advocates in Asia by signing this No Shark Fin pledge. We need to keep up the momentum for sharks, and for our oceans. Thank you!
Humane Society International (HSI) is the global affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). HSI and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world’s largest animal protection organizations — backed by 11 million people. Advancing awareness and support for sharks is one of HSI’s signature programs on wildlife protection. Last year HSI launched a shark education program with The Jane Goodall Institute China, celebrated President Obama signing into law the Shark Conservation Act, and helped enact legislation banning the sale and trade in shark fins on several West Coast States including in California.
Photo credit: Douglas J. Hoffman