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LCQ17: Shark fin trade

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Elizabeth Quat and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (June 18):


     According to government statistics, some 5 400 metric tons of shark fin products were imported into Hong Kong in 2013.  It is learnt that the practice of shark finning is a direct cause of the worldwide collapse of shark population and the near extinction of a number of shark species.  Many countries have enacted legislation to ban the sale or possession of shark fins, and quite a number of businesses (such as airlines, shipping lines, eateries and hotels) have also disassociated from shark fin trade.  In addition, the Government pledged last year to exclude shark fins, among others, in the menus of official entertainment functions "to demonstrate its commitment to the promotion of green living and sustainability".  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it will, for better regulation of the shark fin trade and improvement of its transparency, consider improving the existing Hong Kong Harmonized System codes used for classifying the goods for lodging import/export declarations in Hong Kong, including (i) following the coding practice used for bluefin tuna to identify the shark species that need to be tracked, (ii) deploying scientific identification methods (e.g. DNA testing of randomly sampled shark fins for verification purposes), and (iii) collecting and publishing full statistics on Hong Kong's shark fin trade (including the species, volume and country of origin of the sharks involved); if it will not, of the reasons for that;

(2) whether it will consider not consuming the fins of rays, which are used as substitutes for shark fins, at its official entertainment functions; if it will not, of the reasons for that; and

(3) whether it will draw reference from the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan to take cross-boundary actions for the protection of endangered shark species; if it will not, of the reasons for that?  



(1) Hong Kong implements the Hong Kong Harmonized System (HKHS) for trade declaration purposes. The HKHS adopts the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, which is designed by the World Customs Organization and is internationally practised with more refined classification for meeting Hong Kong's need.  Regarding the shark fin trade, there are about 500 species of shark in the world and most of them can be freely traded internationally. Though there is only one shark fin-specific international harmonized code, Hong Kong has taken a step further to provide smaller categories to further classify shark fins based on whether they are dried, in brine or salted, or canned. Only a few shark species are regulated under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance (Cap. 586) (the Ordinance).  It is not necessary for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) to rely on HKHS for its enforcement of these species under the Ordinance.

     In enforcing the regulation of trade in shark fin controlled under the Ordinance, AFCD relies on physical inspection based on readily recognisable external features.  DNA testing will be considered as a supplementary identification tool where necessary.

     Detailed trade statistics of shark fin, including trade value, quantity, trade type (i.e. re-exports, domestics exports and imports) and country, breaking down by relevant HKHS codes are obtainable from the Census and Statistics Department.

(2) The Government is committed to the promotion of green living. To take the lead and set a good example that goes beyond the minimum expectation as laid down in the law, the Government has set internal guidelines on adopting conservation-conscious menus in official entertainment functions.

     It is not possible to list out all food items of concern exhaustively as circumstances change and for instance the place of origin, means of breeding, different management practices etc. may present different bearings even for the same food item. As a start and to serve as an example of public education and awareness raising on sustainability, shark fin, bluefin tuna and black moss are not included in the menus of official entertainment functions. We would keep in view the local and international trend on green living in line with sustainability-conscious lifestyle and update the list of items from time to time.

(3) The Government is formulating a Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (BSAP) based on principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and taking into account local needs and priorities.  An exercise to raise public awareness on biodiversity conservation and to seek views on the formulation of the BSAP has been rolled out since 2013.  One of the targets under the CBD is the prevention of the extinction of threatened species. In this regard, the Government is committed to protecting endangered species including the protected shark species through the Ordinance. The Ordinance is the local legislation which gives effect to an international convention called the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Hong Kong and regulates the trade in endangered species. Through CITES and the Ordinance, Hong Kong is discharging its international responsibility on protection of wildlife species. AFCD has been maintaining close collaboration with the Mainland authorities in protecting endangered species.

Ends/Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Issued at HKT 14:44


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