WWF continues working with shipping companies to fix loopholes in banning shark fin cargoSince 2014, WWF has been working closely with shipping companies to reduce the global shark fin trade. After we began working with them, a large number of these companies – accounting for 67 per cent of the total shipping industry market share – enacted “no shark fin” carriage policies. However, newly-released figures from the Hong Kong Census and Statistics department figures show that there is still work to be done: shark fin import volumes only fell by around 3.5 per cent in the first half of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. This insignificant decrease highlights the pressing need for shipping companies to improve their monitoring systems. WWF is now working with the Hong Kong Liner Shipping Association to create implementation guidelines which will help shipping companies “walk the talk” and create a greater decrease in shark fin imports.
WWF urges shipping companies that have put in place these “no shark fin” policies to make the “World Customs Organization’s Harmonized System Code” a mandatory item on their bills of lading. As has been confirmed by front-line staff in the shipping industry, the deliberate mislabelling of shark fin cargo is a common method used by unscrupulous traders to circumvent shark fin bans. Tracy Tsang, WWF’s Senior Programme Officer, Shark says, “The World Customs Organization’s Harmonized System Code is a set of numbers that identifies the details of the commodity being shipped. Shippers are required to provide this code when making customs declarations. However, few shipping companies treat the code as mandatory item when accepting shipment orders. It is a known fact that some shippers simply declare shark fin cargo as ‘frozen seafood’ and continue to make shark fin shipments with shipping companies.”
It is important for shipping companies to formulate a shark fin shipment “black list” (high risk shipper and consignee list) by using a risk matrix. WWF is currently working alongside our partner shipping companies to develop these matrices and black lists, in the hopes that they will help front-line staff spot suspicious shipments. We will announce further details regarding this cooperation in the coming couple of months.
Shark fin products are ‘icons’ of the illegal wildlife trade. In just two months in 2017, about 1,280 kilograms potentially illegal shark fin have been seized by the government. WWF urges all shipping companies to minimize the risk of their involvement in the illegal wildlife trade by submitting all relevant documents to Customs through e-channels in advance. “People who import the goods shall complete import declaration within 14 days after the importation of the goods. If shipping companies provide more details about the products they are carrying before their ship enters Hong Kong, the Customs and Excise Department will have more time to perform risk profiling and detect illegal shark fin shipments”, Ms Tsang adds.
Hong Kong has long been at the centre of the global shark fin trade, handling approximately half of the world’s trade. It is vital that Hong Kong take proactive action to tackle this worldwide problem. Ms Tsang predicts that, based on the shark fin trade data for first half of 2016, Hong Kong’s shark fin trade volume will not drop as much as they were hoping and expecting. However, WWF will not give up: now that these loopholes have been identified, and will continue to coordinate with global shipping companies to formulate implementation guidelines that will close these loopholes and make ‘no shark fin’ policies more effective.