Hong Kong is one of the world’s greatest trading hubs for shark fin and related products. Over 50% of all the shark fins exported from countries around the world will at one point come through the ports of Hong Kong. Not all of the products are consumed locally, and a large proportion is re-exported to other markets, including mainland China; but because so much of the world’s shark fins is traded through Hong Kong, regulation and management locally are crucial in intercepting shark fins associated with illegally traded species.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
CITES is an international agreement between governments worldwide, established with a goal to regulate the international trade in wildlife species and protect those species’ survival. As of 2017, there are 183 countries/territories that are a Party to CITES, meaning that they have agreed to be bound by the provisions of CITES. Hong Kong SAR, by association to the China, is also bound by the provisions of CITES.
The 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) was held from 24th September to 5th October 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. All 4 shark species (including 3 species of thresher sharks and the silky shark) and 9 species of mobula rays (often associated with shark conservation and the dried seafood trade; see: Research) proposed for inclusion under CITES Appendix II for protection under international trade regulations were successfully listed. This brings the total number of CITES-listed shark species to twelve.
BLOOM HK will be working closely with local and international NGOs and governments to continue to improve the enforcement of CITES regulations and monitoring of the shark fin-related trade.
Customs Shark School
Locally, BLOOM HK works closely with the Hong Kong government to facilitate enforcement of CITES for shark species. One of the greatest challenges in Hong Kong for deterring illegal shipments of shark fins is due to the difficulties faced by the customs officers to visually identify CITES-listed species during cargo inspections. BLOOM HK, in collaboration with the Stony Brook University and The Pew Charitable Trusts, has devised a Customs Shark School, providing the unprecedented training of the visual identification of shark fins down to the species level for CITES-listed species.
Shark fin and related products: What’s for sale?
The colossal scale of the global shark fin-related market means that it is often difficult to keep track of what is being sold, and how the demand for shark fin-related products is changing. Since 2013, BLOOM HK has been collecting a range of data to understand the local shark fin market, including:
- import and re-export data of shark fin and related products (volumes, source and destination countries)
- species composition of fins found in retail shops (with Stony Brook University)
- Hong Kong shark fin consumption attitudes and behaviour patterns
For further details on the above, please see: Research.