Community & Education Hong Kong Law & Crime

Shark fins found in cargo of Hong Kong freight company, as NGO urges gov’t to close legal loopholes

Shark fins have been found in the cargo of French freight company CMA CGM, despite their efforts to ban the product last year. In response to photos obtained by HKFP, the carrier said that the shipment was sent to a processing factory in Yuen Long by Tak On Marine Products. There was no indication from its label that the shipment contained any shark-related commodity.

CMA CGM told HKFP that they are investigating the issue and are considering blacklisting Tak On Marine Products if they are proven to be associated with shark fin products.

Shark fin CMA CGM

CMA CGM shark fin shipments in Yuen Long. Photo: Supplied.

A company representative told HKFP that the firm maintains a strict policy against the trade of shark-related products: “CMA CGM has issued clear instructions to our internal network and customers that our group has completely banned all forms of shark-related shipments since early 2017,” he said.

Traders are required by law to provide Hong Kong Harmonised System codes when declaring goods to customs, including “shark fins” and “marine fish.”

‘Better labelling laws’

CMA CGM added that tighter regulations are needed to restrict the shipment of shark fin to Hong Kong: “Ultimately, CMA [encourages the] government to take further measures and tighten the rules that help to stop any shark fin shipment into Hong Kong, including those that are CITES certified,” the representative told HKFP.

Shark fin CMA CGM

CMA CGM shark fin shipments in Yuen Long. Photo: Supplied.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) provides a list of vulnerable shark species that includes the silky shark and thresher sharks.

Campaigner for WildAid Hong Kong, Alex Hofford, said that falsely declared goods are a problem when regulating shark-related products, enabling traders to label the goods under generic categories such as “seafood” or “dried marine goods”: “This is a problem that the government could easily fix. Left unfixed, similar such incidents, in which container shipping companies like CMA are clearly the victim, will occur with regularity,” he told HKFP.

“Better labelling laws would certainly help companies in the logistics sector implement their restrictive wildlife carriage policies.”

Shark fin CMA CGM

CMA CGM shark fin shipments in Yuen Long. Photo: Supplied.

Hofford added that the carrier must remain vigilant for illicit traders: “Whilst we commend CMA for their January 2017 shark fin ban commitment, we also remind them to stay vigilant of tricks used by an unethical, unsustainable and often illegal global shark fin trade,” he told HKFP.

Maersk, the largest shipping line in the world, was the first in the world to implement a global ban on shark fin carriage in 2010. But the Danish company was found to be carrying two containers of shark fin from Oman to the Middle East last year by conservation NGO Sea Shepherd Global.

‘A global problem’

The shipment was spotted by a local resident last month, who alerted HKFP: “It has been happening for quite a while, but I didn’t notice that it was shark fin,” the reader, who did not wish to be identified, said. “They didn’t even cover it and they were not in a hurry. It is so disgusting to see this happen very obviously.”

“This is a global problem. Every one of us is responsible for this problem and we have to stop it.”

Blue shark

Blue shark. Photo: WildAid.

Shark fin remains a popular dish in Hong Kong, often served as a soup during large banquets. The city is one of the largest markets in the global shark fin trade. But demand for the threatened species has declined over the past 10 years. According to NGO WWF, imports have dropped by over 50 per cent from 10,210 tonnes in 2007 to 4,979 tonnes, due to a decrease in the amount of shark pin passing through the territory and the amount consumed.

Shark fins found in cargo of Hong Kong freight company, as NGO urges gov't to close legal loopholes