How a campaign to save sharks can help elephants

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

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

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Not only is Liz Kendall a shy Tory, but her words are also likely to appeal to racists

Charlie Brinkhurst Cuff
Andy Coulson  

Andy Coulson: With former News of the World editor cleared of perjury charges, what will he do next?

James Cusick James Cusick
Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
England can win the Ashes – and Elvis Presley will present the urn

England can win the Ashes – and Elvis will present the urn

In their last five Test, they have lost two and drawn two and defeated an India side last summer who thought that turning up was competing, says Stephen Brenkley
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)