When All Else Fails, Blame Racism

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Alex Hofford has been busy exposing the shark fin trade in Hong Kong and the SCMP has picked up on the story.

The practice of “harvesting” the fins is generally thought to consist of catching the sharks, slicing off the fins and then throwing the still-alive crippled and bleeding animal back into the ocean to die. Shark fin is popular because there are perceived health benefits.  The fin itself has no taste; whatever flavor there is comes from what it’s served in, i.e. “superior soup.”  It is seen as an essential dish to include at celebration dinners.  It was a big deal for my ex-wife, who would often express a craving for it, and we’d end up somewhere that charged north of US$25 for a bowl (at places like Fook Lam Moon you could spend hundreds on this).

The SCMP reports today that the Sharks Fin Merchant Association in Hong Kong says that their industry has seen its revenue drop by 50% in the past year and that perhaps as many as 30% of the shops that sell sharks fin have closed in the past year – but I’m going to venture a guess that most of these closed due to gentrification in Sheung Wan and ridiculous rent increases.

The SFMA makes no attempt to defend the trade or the product (at least not in the SCMP article).  Nothing about health, nothing about taste.  Nope.  What they do is say that the drop in their business is due to an “anti-Chinese conspiracy.”  Seriously.

Shark fin traders in Hong Kong blasted an “anti-Chinese conspiracy” by environmentalists, whose constant bombardment of criticism they say is killing their business.

“The whole industry has recorded a [sales] decrease of 50 per cent on last year,” Shark Fin Trade Merchants Association chairman Ho Siu-chai said. “[The decline] is mainly due to the omnipresent advocacy by green groups.”

Ho said his industry was being targeted by an anti-Chinese conspiracy led by “Western” environmental groups. “They always blame us for cutting off fins and dumping carcasses at sea. This is not true and is distorted,” he said.

The strong hostility to the trade has seen about 30 per cent of shark fin shops close down in recent years, Ho estimated, adding that some traders had been forced to sell other dried seafood, such as abalone and scallops.

“It’s getting more difficult to do business in the city because of the conservationists,” Kwong said. “That’s why traders now import less.”

I love that last bit, that they’ve been “forced” to sell other products.  This is an argument?

My take on things is that to eliminate the trade, one should not go after the traders.  As long as there is demand, people will find a way to satisfy that demand.  One needs to eliminate the demand. If that’s not possible, then the fins should only be collected in a sustainable manner – which to me says that the shark is not over-fished, killed in a humane manner, and that the entire shark be used, as there is demand for shark meat, shark skin, shark cartilage and so on.

I don’t think the demand for sharks fin will go away.  But with an estimated one-third of all shark species now on the brink of extinction, if something doesn’t change, shark fin will one day be a thing of the past, for all the wrong reasons.

UPDATE: A friend sent me the link for this video, Gordon Ramsay “Shark Bait”

“Gordon Ramsay loves sharks, and this passion leads him on his most personal mission yet – to investigate the controversial dish, shark fin soup.  What Gordon discovers on his journey leads him to campaign against the brutal and destructive shark fishing industry.”

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10 thoughts on “When All Else Fails, Blame Racism

  1. bk

    Lots of sharks in the ocean. The carcasses feed other marine animals. Nothing to see here except over fed greenies. Move on.

  2. henry

    I don’t blame the traders and restauranters for being pissed off. It’s their livelihood. Do greenies give a shit ?

  3. Chris

    Letter in the SCMP last week from Charlie Lim, chairman, conservation and management committee, Marine Products Association:

    No evidence is presented that Shark Rescue has improved the health of one cubic metre of the ocean. It has not succeeded in stopping one shark being legally taken in legal fisheries anywhere in the world.

    Its claim that the European Union has “called for a definitive halt to shark finning” means that the same numbers of sharks are killed but both meat and fins are landed.

  4. Trevor

    I have just come back from a typical Chinese wedding banquet where shark fin soup was served. Didn’t see a single local diner refuse it. What amazes me about it is that it is totally insipid and you need to pour that red vinegar over it to give it some taste. I find it appalling that HK being so tiny and with such a relatively small population can have such a devastating consquence on the world’s eco-system with virtually nobody here giving a shit about it. I have no idea if the ever increasingly wealthy Mainlanders have a taste for this food, if they do, you can kiss goodbye to sharks in the next generation.

  5. Trevor

    You have never heard of Fairview Park ?! How long have you lived here ? It so large you can see the damned thing from space. It must be about 40+ years old and is looking decidedly tatty. The houses were all built by the company that makes lego and all the rooms are about a third smaller than similarly built houses in the West. Notice that the road leading to the development is full of holes? Due to some local Heung Yee Kuk shenanigans its ownership is disputed and nobody is willing to repair it. It occasionally gets blocked off by a few rent-a-mob local villagers, when the HYK gets pissed off about something, leaving residents stranded. If you still insist on living in this dump, do yourself a favour by keeping well away from hosues bordering the nearby swamp (Mai Po Marsh) as the mosquitoes will eat you alive. Also have a bloody good look at your future neighbours. Most of them keep dogs which bark all night long but there again if you live in SK you are probably used to it. Also dont be fooled if you go mid-week and find it peaceful. Many houses are kept as holiday homes by the locals and its party central at weekends with mahjong going 24/7. Have a look at nearby developments, Palm Springs and Maple Gardens. Better quality in every respect including the residents.

    1. Spike Post author

      Thanks for the tips Trevor but as I wrote, Fairview Park itself is out of my price range and we were looking at neighboring developments such as Merry Garden and Palm Springs. It’s a moot point now because we signed a contract today for a place in Lam Tsuen. And yeah, I had never heard of Fairview Park before.

    1. Spike Post author

      Uh, no, I can’t, unless I want your comment to look as if it came from me instead of you! You can cut & paste or just leave it as it stands.

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