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Asia Dive News : Shark Fin Traders protest at Hong Kong University

Dozens of merchants and businessmen marched onto the campus of Hong Kong's oldest university Friday with the aim of teaching vice chancellor Tsui Lap-chee and his students a thing or two about ecology and conservation.

But instead it became a lesson about finance and, more accurately, the pockets of shark fin traders who say a ban on serving the delicacy at Hong Kong University is affecting their business and is now threatening their livelihoods.

About 60 people, carrying banners and an open letter addressed to Tsui, took part in the 10-minute protest at the university's campus but dispersed peacefully after being received by pro- vice chancellor Lee Chack-fan.

The university had no immediate comment on the demonstration but the chairman of the Shark Fin Trade Merchants Association, Chiu Ching- cheung, said afterwards that Lee was polite to them and had promised to look into the matter.

The ban on serving the ages-old delicacy on the campus came in a statement by Tsui to university staff last month which read: "The university hopes not only to encourage all students, staff and alumni to eschew shark fin dishes at all times but also to give a lead which others in Hong Kong will follow."

Chiu, who had earlier pooh-poohed the university's move, admitted Friday he now had a different opinion.

"I did not expect his [Tsui's] opinion to have such a huge impact," he said. "Obviously, every word from such a highly reputable scholar should be respected.

"His opinion has made some of our customers feel guilty about eating shark fins.

"Over the past month, many of them have been making inquiries following Mr Tsui's decision."

Chiu said, however, the decision is not fair as it does not take into consideration the sources from which Hong Kong merchants got their shark fins or the way they were harvested.

Conservationists have been calling for a ban on shark fins, claiming that many sharks are being mutilated and thrown back into the sea after their fins have been removed.

In the open letter addressed to Tsui, the Shark Fin and Marine Products Association said the vice chancellor's decision was based on what it said was misleading reports from environmentalists rather than on facts.

"It could be defamation. He didn't check our sources of shark fins before saying such things." Chiu went on to say.

The university is the second organization in Hong Kong to ban shark fins, the first being Disneyland which came under intense public pressure in April.

Source: Hong Kong Standard