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February 07, 2012

Ringing in a New Year for Sharks

Yesterday, Chinese families around the world wrapped up 15 days of Chinese New Year celebrations for Year 4709, the Year of the Dragon. Among the traditional revelry such as elaborate dragon dancing, loud firecrackers, and colorful lanterns, a small minority serve shark fin soup as a status symbol during banquets.

No Shark Fin Pledge during Chinese New Year celebrations
Taking a stand against shark finning.

Imagine having your limbs hacked off while you’re still alive, then being dumped into the ocean for a painful death from suffocation, blood loss, or predation. Fins from up to 73 million sharks are used each year to supply the cruel, wasteful, and unsustainable trade in shark fins. Many shark species are apex predators who play an essential role in the marine ecosystem, and the inhumane and ecologically devastating practice of shark finning endangers their survival.

But the tide is turning for sharks. Earlier this year, the Hong Kong-based luxury hotel group Shangri-La announced it will stop serving shark fin products in all of its 72 hotels and resorts (as well as phasing out bluefin tuna and Chilean sea bass from all of its operated restaurants within the next 12 months). Four states―California, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii―have banned the possession, trade, and sale of shark fins. The United States, European Commission, and Taiwan have recently taken action on shark finning, and countries like Canada are considering further action.

Last Sunday, The HSUS and Humane Society International joined the Chinese New Year festivities in Chinatown in New York City, which has the largest Chinese population of any city outside of Asia. My colleagues―including our New York state director, Patrick Kwan, who is a Chinese American raised in Chinatown―distributed thousands of brochures on shark finning and our latest issue of Kind News magazine featuring sharks. We took dozens of photos of supporters with our No Shark Fin pledge (see a slideshow).

Let’s hope the Year of the Dragon is a prosperous one for sharks, and for all of us.

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