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May 5, 2011

Saving Sharks on Earth Day

Beijing and Hong Kong residents rally in support of sharks

Humane Society International

  • The tower. Hong Kong Shark Foundation

  • Removing a box from the tower. Hong Kong Shark Foundation

  • The tower being built. Hong Kong Shark Foundation

  • HSI-sponsored posters urging the Beijing zoo visitors to avoid shark fin products. The Beijing Animal Rescue Branch

  • Beijing Zoo visitors signed HSI's No Shark Fin pledge. The Beijing Animal Rescue Branch

by Iris Ho

While shark fin soup is a traditional Asian delicacy, the global campaign to highlight shark finning and its adverse impact on shark populations and the oceans is receiving increasing support in Asia.

Humane Society International works closely with concerned supporters and organizations across the region to raise the awareness of the sharks’ plight and to urge the public to eschew shark fin soup. On Earth Day this year, HSI partnered with the Beijing Animal Rescue Branch (ARB) and Hong Kong Shark Foundation (HKSF) to organize outreach events to raise support for sharks.

Illustrating the point

In Hong Kong, at an event titled "2011 Earth Day Jigantic Jenga®," Chinese students from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology—young people whose buying decisions will influence the future demand for fins—built several Jenga® towers representing the marine ecosystem. When one layer of blocks representing one part of marine life, such as sharks, was removed from the tower, the whole tower collapsed. As the project manager for HKSF, Bertha Lo, said, “The tower is a fun way to make a serious point: that the marine ecosystem, like any other, relies on the integrity of its layers to remain balanced. If one layer is removed, the whole structure may topple.”  The event was featured on the front page of the City section of the South China Morning Post and made the "Pictures of the Day" in the UK Telegraph. Watch a video of it.

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Recruiting supporters

At the Beijing Zoo, a dozen volunteers from the Beijing Animal Rescue Branch set up a table with eye-catching posters on sharks and shark finning, educating zoo visitors about the unprecedented threat facing sharks and recruiting signers for HSI's No Shark Fin pledge. More than 600 people stopped by the table during the two-hour event, and many of them signed the pledge to stop consuming shark fin products. ARB volunteers took particular delight in making an impact on three generations at a time—many parents and grandparents earnestly explained our posters and handouts to their young children. This event was a prelude to an upcoming photo exhibit that HSI will co-host at the zoo in August with The Jane Goodall Institute/China.

Whether it is Chinese students building Jenga® in Hong Kong or zoo-going families pledging support for sharks, these two HSI-sponsored events reflect the genuine spirit of Earth Day—uniting citizens who span generations, locations and cultures to rally support for challenging environmental issues. Shark and ocean protection have a new emerging constituency in China. HSI is committed to working with supporters and groups across Asia to expand this shark-friendly community.

Do you want to help? With your support, we can expand our shark protection programs in Asia and directly impact more shark fin consumers.