Singapore has seen some improvements over the years. Major hotels have made pledges against the sale of shark fin soup, and according to a study by WWF-Singapore in 2016, 82% of Singaporeans had not eaten shark fin for at least a year because of support for shark conservation and other environmental reasons. The latter was a significant statement from Singaporeans, reflecting a cultural shift from an obedience to tradition (with shark fin soup valued at banquets, weddings etc.) to an openness and appreciation about the need to protect the dwindling number of sharks (100 million sharks are killed every year).
However, Singapore is still miles away from where conservationists – and conscientious people – would like it to be. To drive home the point, the WWF and TRAFFIC have recently released a report, The Shark and Ray Trade in Singapore, which identifies Singapore as the world’s second largest shark fin trader.
The report found that for 2012-2013, shark fin exports were valued at US$40million (S$50.4 million), while imports were US$51.4 million (S$65 million). These numbers placed Singapore behind the world’s No.1 for shark fin trade, Hong Kong, with its US$45 million (S$57.2 million) export value and US$170 million (S$215.4 million) import value.
The report strongly recommended that Singapore get to grips with transparency in the trade by implementing more accurate and robust monitoring. It suggested that Singapore Customs start recording shark data via Harmonised System Codes (HS Codes), which has been developed by the World Customs Organisation for the very purpose of classifying goods. WWF reports that their organisation, as well as TRAFFIC, have been notified by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) that this implementation is underway.
The WWF reports Kanitha Krishnasamy, Senior Programme Manager for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia, as saying, “any country that dominates a particular trade has an extra responsibility to ensure it is transparent and traceable… Key to any effort aimed at enabling legal and sustainable sourcing, and long-term viability of shark populations, is the open availability of product-specific trade data.”
The change to a more robust monitoring is vital for shark conservation. It permits, for example, a distinction between dried and frozen shark products. This is vital for measuring actual trade volumes, and allows for further details about the species of shark being traded (which is clearly an important feature in a climate where some sharks are in greater jeopardy than others). Finally, the transparency that comes from such an accurate monitoring enables Singapore to clearly present the facts to individuals and businesses, who can then make an informed decision as to whether they wish to sell/ consume sharks.
Elaine Tan, Chief Executive Officer of WWF-Singapore, said the following to WWF: “Support to reduce the consumption of shark fin has grown as more people and businesses now believe in keeping sharks off our plates and in the oceans. The fact that Singapore is a significant trader means that the solution to the global shark crisis lies right here on our shores. More robust monitoring of volumes and protected species will set a positive precedent for other countries and contribute to healthier shark populations and oceans.”
At UW360 and Asian Geographic, we feel strongly in our opposition to shark fin soup. ADEX Singapore 2018 is dedicated to sharks, and at ADEX Shenzhen 2017, we are calling on our visitors to sign a pledge against the consumption of sharks. We intend to have a record-breaking number of Chinese people – gathered from all over the world – make this commitment (10,000+). In doing so, we will spread awareness about shark conservation and their dwindling numbers: And we will help send a message against shark fin soup and prompt real change among the Chinese.