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WildAid Trains Guangzhou Customs to Fight Smuggling

Over the past three decades, China’s seafood consumption has more than tripled, surpassing both Japan and the United States as the world’s largest consumer, producer and importer/exporter of fish and shellfish. High demand among a growing middle class also has fueled illegal fishing and smuggling of many protected marine species.

Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province in southern China, is a key port for seafood shipments, and a primary market for such products as manta ray gill rakers and shark fin. Local customs officers are tasked with inspecting a high volume of shipments at ports as well as surveilling markets for illegal products. To help them improve detections of illegal wildlife species, WildAid, the Wildlife Conservation Society and Guangdong Fisheries Law Enforcement recently co-hosted a training for 80 customs and enforcement officers in Guangzhou.

The main purpose of this training was to help agents to quickly identify products from eight protected species, including manta gill rakers (known as peng yu sai), shark fin and the swim bladder of the totoaba — a critically endangered fish indigenous to Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.  The totoaba swim bladders are smuggled from Mexico.  

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Another Study Finds Declining Demand for Shark Fin

In 2014, WildAid published research indicating a significant decline in the shark fin trade: Vendors in China reported a 50 to 70 percent drop in sales over the past two years, with prices dropping by half. About 85 percent of consumers surveyed in China said they had stopped eating shark fin soup, and nearly two-thirds of those cited public awareness campaigns such as those featuring WildAid ambassador Yao Ming as a primary reason for doing so.

New research released this week from Hong Kong reports a similar trend. According to a study co-authored by the marine conservation group BLOOM and the Social Sciences Research Centre of The University of Hong Kong, nearly 70 percent of Hong Kong residents polled said they had cut back on shark fin soup — or they had stopped eating it altogether, in what was formerly the epicenter of shark fin consumption. 

Perhaps even more encouraging, over 90 percent of residents said they believed the Hong Kong government should ban the sale of wildlife products that involve killing endangered animals, echoing WildAid’s findings that 95% of mainland Chinese surveyed supported bans on ivory sales. 

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American Airlines Tweets It's Finished with Shark Fin Shipments

On Tuesday, American Airlines announced via Twitter that it no longer accepts commercial shipments of shark fin for transport — this after wildlife groups discovered the airline had shipped shark fins from Costa Rica to Asia in December.

An investigation by conservation groups Turtle Island Restoration Network and PRETOMA found that hammerhead sharks had been flown from Costa Rica to Hong Kong via stopovers in the U.S. In a statement, Turtle Island said they presented American with evidence of the fin transport and worked with the carrier on the policy shift.

In response to Twitter inquiries including one by WildAid Hong Kong campaign manager Alex Hofford, American announced publicly for the first time that it had stopped accepting shark fin shipments last month. The official end date was originally reported by the company as March 30, and later revised to March 4 in a follow-up tweet.

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WildAid Featured on QUEST

WildAid’s Peter Knights was featured on the November 25 episode of QUEST, KQED's science and conservation magazine, which explored the issue of shark finning and how one restaurant has changed its menu to comply with California’s shark-fin ban.

Sharks and Manta Protection Kicks In

Protection under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) kicks in this week for five more shark species and two manta ray species. Any trade in oceanic whitetip shark, porbeagle, scalloped hammerhead shark, smooth hammerhead shark, great hammerhead shark, and manta ray products is now to be restricted via national regulations to “avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.” The designation was passed at the CITES’ 16th Conference of the Parties in Bangkok, Thailand in March of 2013 and the listings go into effect this Sunday, September 14.

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