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04/10/2014 4:59 pm EDT
Here’s some much-needed good news for our shark friends: The Hong Kong chapter of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) announced this week that the volume of shark fins exported to Hong Kong fell by about 35 percent between 2012 and 2013.
Shark fin exports to Hong Kong represent about half of the global shark fin trade, Quartz reports, adding that the city is the world’s main processing center of the meat. There, fins are processed before being sold locally or exported to China and elsewhere.
In more good news, WWF-Hong Kong said that the volume of shark fin products re-exported from Hong Kong also declined last year by about 400 tons (or 17.5 percent). The environmental group added that shark fin shipments from Hong Kong to China, a major market for the delicacy, had seen an especially significant drop. The South China Morning Post reports the shark fin trade from Hong Kong to the mainland fell by a whopping 90 percent between 2012 and 2013.
“We were very surprised when we saw this figure as the mainland has traditionally been Hong Kong’s biggest re-export market,” WWF-Hong Kong senior program director Tracy Tsang told the newspaper, adding that the Chinese government’s anti-corruption measures could have played a role in the drop in trade.
A general decline in the popularity of shark fin products, including shark fin soup — a delicacy eaten in some countries in Asia — has likely also contributed to the fall in demand.
According to an Al-Jazeera report this week, shark fin sellers in parts of China have seen a sharp decline in sales in the past year. In Guangzhou, for example, described as the center of China’s shark fin trade, vendors have been quoted as saying that sales have dropped by as much as 80 percent in the past year.
“Chinese people’s understanding of the environment is growing,” one vendor at Beijing’s Jingshen Seafood Market said, per Al-Jazeera. “They are coming to realize the impact that shark fishing has on the ecological balance in the oceans, and so they are slowly eating less and less.”
In recent years, authorities in Hong Kong and China have implemented policies targeted at reducing consumption of shark fin. Both governments, for example, have vowed to stop serving shark fin at official functions.
Still, despite the positive news, conservationists warn that the battle for the shark fin is far from being won.
In its announcement Tuesday, WWF-Hong Kong said that the Hong Kong government still needs to do a better job tracking shark fin products.
“To better regulate the shark fin trade and improve its transparency, WWF calls on the Hong Kong government to begin collecting and releasing full statistics on the shark fin trade, including the species, volumes and countries of origin,” the WWF’s Tracy Tsang said, per the release.
Globally, overfishing remains a huge problem for both sharks and rays.
Scientists have estimated that 100 million sharks are killed by humans every year. If overfishing continues at its current rate, experts warn that a staggering number of sharks and rays will be wiped off the face of planet before we know it. According to a 2014 study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a whopping 25 percent of sharks and rays currently face an “alarming” threat of extinction.