LCQ11: Reducing consumption of shark's fin

     Following is a question by the Hon Audrey Eu Yuet-mee and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the Legislative Council meeting today (January 12):


     Some environmental groups have pointed out that as only three species of shark are at present protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, more than a hundred shark species and closely related species included by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in its Red List of Threatened Species may still face the danger of extinction due to overfishing.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of banquets and dining parties the Government hosted at public expenses last year, the amount involved, and the number of such banquets in which the menu included shark's fin, with a breakdown by government department;

(b) whether the various government departments had formulated guidelines on suspending the consumption of shark's fin in banquets hosted at public expenses in the past five years; if not, whether they will consider formulating such guidelines; and

(c) whether last year the Government had educated members of the public and promoted the message of reducing consumption of shark's fin in order to safeguard the ecological balance; if it had, of the resources devoted in this regard; if not, the reasons for that?



     My reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:

(a) In respect of using public funds on official banquets and meals, the Government has internal guidelines that set their budgets which departments need to observe.  When organising official entertainments, we also emphasise that the occasion should be decent but not give an impression that it is extravagant.  Hence, when departments use public funds to organise banquets and meals, the menus do not generally include shark fin.

     As regards information on the number of banquets and meals the Government organised using public funds last year, the amount involved, the number of such banquets in which the menu included shark fin, and with a breakdown by government departments, such extensive information involves all departments and their offices, and covers a wide scope.  And since we also do not keep information on menus for banquets and meals of different scales held in the past, we are not in a position to provide such detailed information.

(b) Currently, there are about 320 shark species, most of which could be freely traded in Hong Kong.  Three shark species, i.e. Great White Shark, Basking Shark and Whale Shark, have been listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  The CITES is an international agreement among governments of different states, which seeks to ensure that the survival of wild animals and plants will not be threatened because of international trade.  The Government is committed to protecting endangered species.  We implement the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Chapter 586) to strictly regulate the trade of species listed in the Appendices of CITES to fulfil the CITES requirements.  At present, the laws of Hong Kong regulate the trading of shark species in accordance with the CITES requirements.  With regard to the shark species not yet listed in CITES, the laws of Hong Kong do not restrict its commercial trade.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is an international conservation organisation, and its works include compiling a list which lists out the conservation status of different species around the world.  In considering whether to list certain species in the CITES Appendices, the CITES Conference of the Parties will consider a number of factors including the specie's quantity, management status, and will also draw reference from the list compiled by IUCN.

     The Government all along abides by CITES and the local legislation.  We do not think it is appropriate to lay down guidelines to regulate the kind of food to be consumed in official banquets and meals.

(c) Paying heed to the principle of sustainable development, the Government adheres strictly to the CITES requirements.   We also conduct public education on CITES, which is one of the most important elements in implementing CITES in Hong Kong.  Specifically, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) has paid considerable efforts in publicity and education, in order to raise the awareness of the members of the public on protecting endangered species.  The AFCD organises a series of educational and publicity activities every year, which include dissemination of relevant information through the media and internet, distribution of leaflets and posters, organisation of exhibitions and seminars; and operation of the Endangered Species Resources Centre for educational purpose, etc.  In 2010, the AFCD has organised 32 exhibitions, 37 relevant seminars, and received over 7,000 visitors at the Endangered Species Resources Centre.  Apart from public education, AFCD also has specific publicity programmes that target at traders.  AFCD has produced and handed out a series of leaflets that focuses on trade of endangered species (including trade of marine species).  Moreover, AFCD sends circular letters to traders, organises consultation meetings as well as seminars, in order to disseminate information about legislative control of endangered species to the trade.

Ends/Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:16