Scientists protest against trade in shark fin (The Straits Times, Tuesday 12 June 2012)

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Scientists protest against trade in shark fin

by Siau Ming En

The shark’s fin trade is unsustainable, say 41 leading international marine scientists.

They argue that only three threatened species are covered by regulation, leaving inadequate protection for the rest.

And they point out that there is no accurate estimate of the number of sharks killed for their fins. This means it is “impossible for the industry to state that the trade is sustainable”.

The scientists, who included academics and researchers from the United States, Canada, France and Australia, expressed their views in an open letter presented to Nominated MP Nicholas Fang.

It was a response to arguments made by Singaporean Dr Giam Choo Hoo, who represents Asia on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Animal Committee, a United Nations group that regulates endangered-species trade.

In February, he told a forum that banning the trade in sharks’ fins would not dramatically reduce the number of the creatures killed worldwide.

This is because fishermen in Europe have long killed sharks for their meat, not just their fins, so a ban would not stop them.

Mr John Lu, the director of local advocacy group Shark Savers Singapore, said he hoped the scientists’ letter would eventually lead to the topic being discussed in Parliament. “I think that’s the end game,” he said.

“We hope that through the empirical data in this letter, more discussions about the sharl’s fin trade can be brought up.”

He added that he had approached both Mr Fang and Nominated MP Eugene Tan because they had expressed an interest in seeing more scientific backing for the shark conservation movement.

But when asked if he would raise it in Parliament, Mr Fang said the emphasis should be on increasing the level of education on the topic.

He said the letter was “a great starting point in putting the entire issue into perspective and shows people that more information is available.”

He added that it put forward the views of scientists who were credible and understood the current situation.

The anti-shark’s fin movement has grown in recent years, resulting in supermarket chains like NTUC Fairprice, Carrefour and Cold Storage pulling shark’s fin products from their shelves.

Some restaurants and hotels have also taken it off their menus.

 

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