Singapore must be more transparent in shark fin trade

Singapore was ranked the world’s second-largest shark fin trader by value after Hong Kong, according to trade figures from 2012-2013, say conservationist groups Traffic and WWF.

SINGAPORE: Conservationist groups called on the Singapore Government to improve transparency and conduct “more robust monitoring” to tackle the global shark fin trade, after the country was found to be one of the world’s largest shark fin trader by value.

According to the latest report released by wildlife-trade monitor Traffic and conservation group WWF on Friday (May 26), Singapore was ranked the world’s second-largest shark fin trader by value after Hong Kong, according to trade figures in 2012-2013.

The recorded export and import values of shark fin in Singapore was S$50.4 million and S$65 million, respectively, during that period, second only to Hong Kong’s S$57.2 million for export and S$215.4 million for import trade, the report said.

Traffic and WWF added that in-depth analysis into the shark fin trade was hampered by a lack of detail in Singapore Custom’s import and export data. They recommended that Singapore Customs begin recording shark data using detailed Harmonised System Codes (HS Codes), developed by the World Customs Organisation for the classification of goods.

The system allows for better distinction between dried and frozen shark products, which is critical for accurately determining actual trade volumes and provide further insight into the species in trade, WWF and Traffic said.

Accurate, openly available information would also enable individuals and businesses to make responsible choices about which products they ​consume, they added.

“Any country that dominates a particular trade has an extra responsibility to ensure it is transparent and traceable,” Ms Kanitha Krishnasamy, senior programme manager for Traffic in Southeast Asia, added. “Key to any effort aimed at enabling legal and sustainable sourcing, and long-term viability of shark populations, is the open availability of product-specific trade data.”

According to a survey by WWF released in February 2016, three out of four consumers in Singapore think the government is not doing enough to protect sharks and would support legislation against shark fin consumption.

Commenting on the latest report, Ms Elaine Tan, CEO of WWF-Singapore, said: “Support to reduce the consumption of shark fin has grown as more people and businesses now believe in keeping sharks off our plates and in the oceans.”

“The fact that Singapore is a significant trader means that the solution to the global shark crisis lies right here on our shores. More robust monitoring of volumes and protected species will set a positive precedent for other countries and contribute to healthier shark populations and oceans,” she added.