How a campaign to save sharks can help elephants

When the buying of ivory and shark fins stops, the killing can too

Share
Related Topics

Saving elephants, as followers of The Independent’s Christmas Appeal will know, seems to be a harder and harder task as the killing in Africa gets more difficult to control. But there is one particular way forward which offers hope, and which at first may seem surprising, and that is through saving sharks.

A giant vegetarian land mammal wouldn’t at first sight seem to have much in common with a deep-sea predator. But elephants and sharks share a cruel curiosity of fate: they both have bodily protuberances which humans find so valuable they will kill both sets of creatures to get them.

With elephants, or course, it’s their ivory tusks, now in booming demand especially among the rising middle class of China. With sharks, it’s their fins, an essential ingredient in what has long been another fad of wealthy Chinese: shark’s fin soup.

While elephants are killed in their thousands, sharks are killed in their millions for the soup.  The slaughter is having a drastic effect on shark populations, with 32 per cent of deep-sea species threatened with extinction.

“Shark finning” is a pitiless form of fishing involving cutting off the fins while the fish are still alive and then throwing them back into the sea. The reason is a pair of shark fins can sell in Asia for $700 a kilo – and the less valuable shark bodies would be an encumbrance on a fisherman’s boat.

But in July this year the European Union brought in a regulation ending the practice, and in future all EU boats will have to land sharks with their fins still attached.

Ali Hood, of Britain’s Shark Trust, sees this as a major step forward, not least because the EU is a big player in the shark market, with Spain alone having the third-biggest shark catch in the world, and also because the move will give the EU the moral authority to persuade other nations to do the same. But the biggest obstacle to lessening the global shark slaughter is the demand from China.

In 2006, the inventive conservation body WildAid, based in San Francisco and headed by British-born Peter Knights, began a campaign to make the Chinese public realise that shark’s fin soup represents a big conservation problem. 

The campaign took off when in 2009 China’s best-known sports star, basketball player Yao Ming, appeared in a film saying he would no longer eat the soup and used the slogan “Mei yu mai mai, jiu mei yu sha hai”, meaning “When the buying stops, the killing can too.”

The campaign appears to be having a significant effect: according to WildAid, consumption of shark fin soup has dropped by between 50 and 70 per cent in the last two years, and this month, the Chinese government banned shark fin soup from state banquets.

Now WildAid is rolling out a campaign, based on the shark fin ads, to lessen demand for ivory and rhino horn by making it socially unacceptable. Its first short film, featuring Yao Ming again, alongside Prince William and David Beckham, will air in China next month.

Mr Knights says: “The slogan and the sentiment, of connecting the buying and the killing, is already understood throughout China… And because elephants are more charismatic than sharks, and because the international profile is so much higher on the ivory issue, we really believe it can happen.”

He hopes the Chinese Government might even consider banning the sale of ivory within two years.

To donate to our Christmas elephant appeal, click here

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition