Hong Kong Government Takes Steps to Protect Sharks and Bluefin Tuna

Contact: Andy Fisher, 202-540-6559

Washington, DC - 09/13/2013 - Joshua Reichert, executive vice president of The Pew Charitable Trusts, praised the release of new sustainable consumption guidelines for government and public sector employees in Hong Kong to not serve shark fin and bluefin tuna at official functions.

“We congratulate the Hong Kong government for taking leadership to protect shark and bluefin tuna populations that are globally at risk. This announcement is particularly significant as Hong Kong is the world’s largest shark fin market, representing approximately 50 percent of the global trade. In addition, a recent stock assessment of Pacific bluefin indicated that the population has declined by about 96 percent.”

Global shark populations are declining at an unprecedented rate. Approximately 100 million sharks are killed every year in commercial fisheries, driven largely for the demand for shark fin. Because sharks mature late in life, have long reproductive cycles, and produce few young, they are extremely vulnerable to overfishing.

The momentum to protect sharks has clearly been growing. Since 2009, nine countries and territories have established shark sanctuaries, closing their waters to commercial shark fishing and banned the sale, trade and possession of shark fins and products. In 2012, the Chinese government announced it would establish regulations banning consumption of shark fin at official banquets by 2015. Last March, protections were extended to five species of sharks and manta rays under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

In contrast, bluefin tuna protections are entirely inadequate to reverse the decline of these severely depleted species. There is no limit on total catch, and greater than 90 percent of Northern Pacific bluefin catch is comprised of small juveniles. Like its North Pacific cousins, the southern bluefin tuna is at approximately 5 percent of its unfished level, and western Atlantic bluefin have been overfished for decades.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, Atlantic bluefin are endangered and southern bluefin are critically endangered. Effective implementation and enforcement of these new regulations in Hong Kong will be key in order to protect sharks and bluefin tuna for future generations.

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