A 10-year survey on habits and attitudes in Hong Kong regarding shark fin soup consumption has revealed that the city is embracing a more sustainable future by supporting government initiatives for conservation and making environmentally friendly choices as consumers.
What is Happening?
- The project, led by BLOOM Association Hong Kong (BLOOM HK) and commissioned to the Social Sciences Research Centre of The University of Hong Kong (HKUSSRC), is the first of its kind to monitor long-term changes in the city’s consumption of shark fin soup, having conducted telephone interview surveys in 5-year intervals within the decade.
- The first survey was conducted in 2009/10, with two subsequent studies held in 2014/15 and 2019/20. Interviews targeted over 1 000 Hong Kong citizens each year, and included detailed questions to determine each respondent’s frequency in consuming shark fin soup and other shark fin-related products, their thoughts on the issue, and their willingness to support lifestyles and developments within the city that move towards the protection of the ocean and wildlife resources.
Results of the Survey
- The results of the survey showed significant changes in Hong Kong over the past decade.
- When asked how often respondents ate shark fin soup in the past 5 years, 58.1% of respondents in the 2009/10 survey said their consumption “stayed the same”. In the 2019/20 study, this percentage fell to 19.0%, and 53.9% of respondents reported a decrease in consumption (from 36.2% in 2009/10). A further 15.2% said they have stopped consumption. In the 2009/10 survey, 72.9% of respondents reportedly had shark fin soup at least once in the past 12 months, but in the latest survey, this percentage fell to 33.1%.
- Over the surveys, more than 90% of respondents find it acceptable for shark fin soup to be excluded from both wedding banquets and corporate events. Some respondents in the 2019/20 survey suggested that the dish should be replaced by sustainable seafood.
Regulation of Shark Fin Soup, Illegal Wildlife Trade
- In the 2019/20 survey, 90.4% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed that the Hong Kong government should do more to regulate the international shark fin trade, and 89.3% strongly supported or supported the inclusion of illegal wildlife trade in Hong Kong’s Cap. 455 Organised and Serious Crime Ordinance (OSCO).
- Among all age groups, a higher proportion of respondents aged 18-29 showed strong support (95.9% “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree”) for government efforts to do more to regulate the international shark fin trade, and 94.4% supported (“strongly support” or “support”) the inclusion of illegal wildlife trade in OSCO. At the time of the survey, only 28 out of more than 500 species of sharks were regulated in international trade.
- Less than 10% of Hong Kong’s waters are designated as Marine Protection Areas (MPAs). Strong support was recorded (80.6% “strongly support” or “support”) for increasing the size of MPAs in the territory. Again, the younger generation was most supportive of this suggestion, with 87.8% of the age range responding with “strongly support” or “support.”
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Stan Shea, Marine Programme Director of BLOOM HK, says, “Ten or twenty years ago, these results may have been difficult to imagine. But we had confidence that Hong Kong people would care about protecting species threatened with extinction and support marine conservation initiatives if they were given a chance to understand the reasons why, even if this meant they had to change some behaviours. That’s why we decided to conduct these studies over a decade – so that we could see the changes take place.”
- Hong Kong is considered a hub for the global illegal wildlife trade, especially for shark fin and other dried seafood products. Wildlife crime is so rampant in Hong Kong that its wildlife seizures for 2019 equated to about a third of all wildlife seizures in mainland China — a jurisdiction more than 866% the size of Hong Kong and with about 1.4 billion more people living in it.
- Legal experts have put forward a draft law that would allow wildlife crimes to be dealt with under Hong Kong’s Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance, rather than being handled under other mandates, such as the Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance, as it is now. Advocates of the bill say this change would enable authorities to undertake more thorough investigations of wildlife crimes and authorise harsher penalties.
Featured image by: Flickr