Shark finning is a relatively new practice introduced to Tonga. In February 2013 the first public display of shark finning in Vava'u was spotted at the Neiafu Shopping Center. The practice is a lot more prevalent in Tongatapu – Kimiko Restaurant for instance (located on Vuna Road and pictured above) dries hundreds to thousands of shark fins on its roofs. Every year, 100 million fins are barbarically cut off live sharks to make an expensive soup considered an Asian delicacy. The finless sharks are thrown back into the water where they often don’t swim normally afterwards, drown, starve to death or eaten by predators.
Sharks have been around for 420 million years, and modern sharks for 100 million years. Although they have survived mass extinctions, sharks have not evolved to withstand overexploitation by humans. As apex predators, sharks play a vital role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems, serving as an indicator of ocean health. About 50 shark species today are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) but only about 5 species are protected under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
According to figures from the Tonga Fisheries website, Tonga has been exporting shark fins since at least the late 1990’s. At this time, it is not clear what year Tonga officially started exporting shark fins. According to Oceana, Tonga exported almost 8,000 kg of shark fins in 2008 to Hong Kong alone, the biggest shark fin market. Here are some of the shark fin numbers exported by 4 companies from years 2000-2005. There are no records online after 2005 but they may be available directly from the Ministry.
2000: Tonga exported 1,600 kg at T$80/kg
2001: Tonga exported 4,300 kg at T$80/kg
2002: Tonga exported 6,800 kg at T$80/kg
2003: Tonga exported 6,700 kg at T$80/kg
2004: Tonga exported 5,700 kg at T$80/kg
2005: Tonga exported 2,300 kg at T$50/kg
The international demand for shark fins far exceeds resources and the rate at which sharks reproduce. If sharks are to be fished at all, the whole shark should be caught. Shark finning is an obscene and wasteful practice, and we call on the Government of Tonga to stop the unsustainable trading of shark fins!
Mālō mo e Hūfia.