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Global names join local NGO’s fight to save shark

SINGAPORE — A homegrown shark conservation campaign has crossed international waters as it sees more global names coming on board to say “No” to shark finning.

Global names join local NGO’s fight to save shark

Global hospitality giants such as Hilton Worldwide, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and Hyatt, have signed corporate pledges to go shark’s fin-free. Photo: Reuters

SINGAPORE — A homegrown shark conservation campaign has crossed international waters as it sees more global names coming on board to say “No” to shark finning.

Shark Savers Singapore, a non-governmental organisation, said today (Nov 6) that global hospitality giants — such as Hilton Worldwide, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and Hyatt — had signed corporate pledges to go shark’s fin-free under its “I’m FINished with FINs” (IFWF) campaign.

They join the likes of well-known international figures — such as former Manchester United star David Beckham, China’s ex- basketball superstar Yao Ming, actor Jackie Chan and Britain’s Prince William — as brand ambassadors for the campaign.

Still, it was Singapore’s very own public figures who first took the leap of faith to endorse the campaign, said Shark Savers Singapore regional director Jonn Lu.

He credited local personalities, such as actor-comedian Hossan Leong, former Nominated Members of Parliament Eugene Tan and Nicholas Fang, and Indochine’s Michael Ma as being among the first to “stake their reputation and good name on a campaign that had no history or no legacy”.

Mr Lu added that many other international big names came on board very much later, after the campaign had already established its reputation.

He attributed the campaign’s success to an “easy-to-digest” message.

“A lot of conservation campaigns focus on animal rights and food ethics. But if you are asking someone not to eat shark’s fin because it is cruel, yet you eat a hamburger, then you lose your moral high ground,” Mr Lu said.

“All we did was shift the track of that message and focus on the big picture. You don’t have to love (sharks) per se in order to want to conserve or protect them. You just have to admit that we can’t do very well without them — that our future generations depend on their existence,” he added.

Mr Lu said it is particularly important that the message resonates in Singapore because despite its “clean image”, the country is listed as one of the top 10 illegal wildlife trading hubs worldwide — as stated by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Noting that Singapore handles a high volume of shark’s fin sales, Mr Lu said this is an area that Government could look into.

A 2013 report by wildlife trade monitoring network, Traffic, showed that Singapore was one of the world’s top four exporters and the third-largest importer of shark’s fins between 2000 to 2009. Hong Kong was the world’s largest importer, the report said.

The global shark’s fin trade is estimated to be worth as much as US$1.2 billion (S$1.55 billion) a year.

Mr Lu said the IFWF campaign, which was launched in 2012, has since become the world’s largest grassroots-initiated mass media shark conservation campaign.

It is also working on getting 100,000 Singaporeans to pledge against consuming shark’s fin, and has garnered 70,000 and 76,000 pledges in Hong Kong and Malaysia respectively, so far.

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