Communicating shark conservation to Chinese communities around the Coral Triangle | WWF

Communicating shark conservation to Chinese communities around the Coral Triangle

Posted on 15 July 2013    
Coral Triangle Shark Report Cover
Coral Triangle Shark Report Cover
© WWF-Hong Kong
As part of its efforts to raise awareness on shark conservation and the need to hamper the illegal trade and consumption of shark products among Chinese communities, WWF-Hong Kong has produced a Chinese translation of the report, “An Overview of Shark Utilization in the Coral Triangle Region.”

The report, which was jointly produced by WWF and TRAFFIC and launched in English in late 2012, examines the catch, trade, and management of sharks in waters of the five Coral Triangle countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Solomon Islands, plus the neighbouring countries of Vietnam and Fiji.

The report shows the need for a more concerted effort in managing shark fisheries in the Coral Triangle, to help conserve dwindling populations of these threatened species.

Top predators in peril

As many as 100 million sharks are killed each year. Global shark populations are declining at an alarming rate. This precipitous drop has largely been driven by the highly lucrative shark fin trade, feeding the demand for shark fin in Hong Kong, mainland China and beyond.

In spite of its small size and population, Hong Kong accounts for a staggering 50 percent of the global shark fin trade. Since 2007, WWF-Hong Kong has been running several local shark conservation programmes to engage primary stakeholders in the supply chain, including corporations, caterers, and consumers. WWF has been striving to present a realistic and comprehensive picture of the shark fin industry and its consequences to the Hong Kong community.

This is not easy, as the picture is very complicated. Hong Kong is a complex entrepôt for shark fin: a mix of processed and unprocessed shark fins, harvested from legal and illegal sources. Despite these intricacies, the principal aim of WWF’s campaign in Hong Kong is to facilitate the reduction of demand at every level.

After years of hard work, this local campaign is now gaining real traction, particularly in terms of consumption and trade levels.

Gaining political traction

In July 2012, the Central Chinese government committed to not serving shark fin at any official function in three years’ time. Shortly afterwards, in September 2012, Hong Kong-based airlines Cathay Pacific and Dragonair announced a ban on carrying unsustainable shark fin as cargo. This bold move has since inspired more airlines to follow suit.

In March 2013, the oceanic whitetip shark, hammerhead sharks (including scalloped hammerhead, great hammerhead, and smooth hammerhead) and porbeagle sharks were all successfully added to Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This means that these species and their derivative products (i.e., shark fins) can be commercially traded internationally, but within strict regulations to ensure their sustainability.

Creating awareness in the Chinese community

In Hong Kong and mainland China, the younger generation is increasingly becoming environmentally-conscious. They are hungry for knowledge and are eager to obtain the latest conservation information.

Thanks to its history and geographical placement, Hong Kong is an important hub for Chinese-language information sharing. WWF-Hong Kong regularly receives news and information from the WWF global network; this information forms the building blocks of content disseminated to local stakeholders and the wider Chinese community, mostly online and other communication channels.

A good example is the report “An Overview of Shark Utilization in the Coral Triangle Region.” Thanks to funding provided by our passionate supporters, WWF-Hong Kong has translated this report into simplified Chinese, allowing WWF to share the report with members of the Chinese community. This is a vital step in beginning the process of starting a dialogue on solutions to the problem.

A growing problem

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), countries in the Coral Triangle region, particularly Malaysia and Indonesia, are among the world’s primary shark catchers. By distributing this report, it is hoped that the fishery management loopholes in these countries will be duly reviewed, and that eventually this will help countries on the demand side – including Hong Kong, mainland China, and Singapore – begin to reshape their shark conservation strategies and related legal issues.

Reducing unsustainable shark fin consumption is only part of the global shark conservation picture. Fishery management and the creation of shark sanctuaries are also necessary to help prevent the population crash of this top marine predator.

By making this information available in a language shared by more than 1.3 billion people, WWF can build rapport with Chinese communities all over the world. Publications like the shark utilization report will bring new insight to the Chinese community on shark conservation issues.

Continuing the fight

The Chinese government has shown strong leadership in saying “no” to shark fin and more and more companies and individuals are doing the same thing.

Shark conservation messages are undoubtedly beginning to spread across Hong Kong, mainland China, and other Chinese communities in Asia.

As encouraging as this may be, the bulk of work to reverse declines in shark populations still lies ahead of us. Through effective communication, this work may no longer be an uphill battle.

By WWF-Hong Kong

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