Thanks to a former NBA star, a coalition of Chinese business leaders, celebrities and students, and some unlikely investigative journalism, eating shark fin soup is no longer fashionable here. But what really tipped the balance was a government campaign against extravagance that has seen the soup banned from official banquets.
“People said it was impossible to change China, but the evidence we are now getting says consumption of shark fin soup in China is down by 50 to 70 percent in the last two years,” said Peter Knights, executive director of WildAid, a San Francisco-based group that has promoted awareness about the shark trade. The drop is also reflected in government and industry statistics.
“It is a myth that people in Asia don’t care about wildlife,” Knights said. “Consumption is based on ignorance rather than malice. ”
The dramatic expansion in China’s middle and upper classes has transformed the country into a major driver of global wildlife trafficking. The Obama administration is so concerned about Chinese demand for endangered wildlife that it made the subject an important part of its bilateral dialogue this year.
More than 70 million sharks were killed last year, largely to satisfy rapacious demand from China’s newly rich for shark fin soup.
Lavish spending by China’s wealthy has also sent demand for ivory skyrocketing, fueling a massive expansion in elephant poaching in Africa.
The consequences of the traffic go beyond a crisis for wildlife. The illegal ivory trade has financed global crime networks and local insurgents, including Somalia’s al-Shabab — responsible for last month’s attack on a Nairobi shopping mall.
“Conservation is more about China now than it is about Africa,” said Knights. “China can be the savior of wildlife or it can be the demise of it.”
Posts tagged shark fin soup.
Sorry, I’m not going to post them here, but you can see them at:
What a marine massacre looks like
Yesterday I led a team of eight scientists and students from UNC, USFQ and the Galapagos Science Center that documented the catch aboard a vessel caught illegally long lining in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. We worked alongside a great team from the Galapagos National Park and were also assisted by the Ecuadorian Coast Guard. We identified, sexed, and measured every individual (there turned out to be 379 sharks, not 357 as reported earlier). We also took samples for genetic and demographic analysis (very little is known about the biology of some of these species). It took 10 hours and was grueling and very dangerous work. (There were lots of knives, hooks, and other sharp objects around, the sharks are very heavy and the deck of the ship was extremely slippery.) Beyond that, it was one of the most depressing and intense days of my life. It felt like we were unearthing a mass grave in a war zone. The bodies of the sharks were literally coming out of a dark hold beneath the deck as if they were being unearthed. We are all physically and emotionally toast today, so I thought I should start describing it all with a slide show (note, this is graphic and disturbing). I will post a lot more detail soon, including information on the broader context of shark fishing here and elsewhere.
But apparently it’s about to be banned if the bill survives one more committee. The NRDC’s Leila Monroe reports that California is one of the largest markets for shark fin soup in the world, second to Asia. And, since it’s the west coast, plenty of celebrities are lobbying for the bill to pass (including my future wife, Scarlett Johansson).
If you’re unfamiliar with shark finning, click this video of sharks getting finned alive, then being tossed into the ocean, still alive. It’s sick (imo, at least shoot the damn things in the head).
This afternoon, California came one important step closer to banning the sale, trade and distribution of shark fins. Assembly Bill 376 passed out of the Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee with the support of Senators Pavley, LaMalfa, Evans, Kehoe, Padilla, Wolk, and Simitian. This bill will help protect the estimated 26 – 73 million sharks killed each year for their fins, which are used to meet the exploding demand for shark fin soup. The bill’s next stop is the Senate Appropriations Committee.
California is one of the largest markets for shark fins outside of Asia; the ban will deter finning in international waters by ending the fin trade here. More than 1/3 of shark species are threatened with extinction as a result of the international shark fin trade, with some populations declined by 99%. This morning, the Sacramento Bee carried an excellent article about the importance of this bill, discussing how the opposition critiques are misguided and inaccurate.