HONG KONG — Hong Kong shark fin merchants on Wednesday reacted angrily to a US study that said meat from endangered species was being sold in the city’s markets to make a popular soup.
In the new study for the journal Endangered Species Research, US scientists said they had used DNA testing to trace the geographic origin of shark fins on sale in Hong Kong. They found 21 percent of the fins came from endangered scalloped hammerhead shark stocks in the western Atlantic.
But the Hong Kong Shark Fin Trade Merchant’s Association said its members had not done anything illegal.
“The study is exaggerated,” a spokesman for the association told AFP.
“We are not doing anything against the law. The sale of endangered scalloped hammerhead shark fins has not been made illegal here.”
The scientists are calling for the March 2010 meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to draw up trade regulations to protect hammerhead and other shark populations not covered by the pact.
One kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of scalloped hammerhead shark fin can sell for 120 US dollars or more in the city, according to the researchers.
Shark fins are used to make a soup that is considered a rare delicacy and a must-have at many Hong Kong wedding banquets.
Mak Ching-po, chairman of the Hong Kong Dried Seafood and Grocery Merchants Association, also criticised the study.
“Shark populations will grow exponentially if we don’t keep fishing them,” Mak told Hong Kong daily The Standard.
“As a result, humans will be in short supply of smaller fish such as garoupa, as sharks will eat them.”
Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said it would abide by any new regulations adopted after the CITES meeting next year.
“Hong Kong is committed to the protection of endangered species, and will closely follow the international control as required by CITES on the trade in endangered species,” it said in a statement.