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Phuket: Campaign launched for ‘Fin Free Thailand’

BANGKOK: Thai environmental groups, celebrities, students, prominent chefs and businesses launched a new nationwide campaign to stop the sale and consumption of shark fin on Februray 10.

Monday 18 February 2013, 04:03PM

Cindy Burbridge Bishop, Natalie Glebova and Banyan Tree Bangkok Executive Chef Jaikrishnan Govindan Photo: Anne Shifley

Cindy Burbridge Bishop, Natalie Glebova and Banyan Tree Bangkok Executive Chef Jaikrishnan Govindan Photo: Anne Shifley

Organised by a collective of environmental groups, Fin Free Thailand encourages businesses to ban shark fin and advises consumers to refrain from eating it by drawing attention to the environmental impacts and health risks.

Hotels, restaurants and supermarkets selling shark fin are also encouraged to adopt a ‘fin free’ policy through outreach and public petitions.

“It breaks my heart that up to 73 million sharks are brutally harvested each year just so their fins could end up in soup bowls of the rich and wealthy. Such a waste, such a tragic loss,” said actress and avid diver Cindy Burbridge Bishop, an ambassador for the campaign.

Legal and illegal fishing to meet the global demand for shark fin soup has contributed to a catastrophic decline in shark populations. Some species have been reduced by 99 per cent since the 1950s.

It is unclear exactly how the world’s oceans will be affected by this dramatic and increasing loss.

In 2001, a coalition of restaurant owners unsuccessfully tried to sue Freeland Foundation (then called WildAid Thailand) for close to B100 million for revealing scientific facts to the public relating to unsafe levels of methyl-mercury found in shark fin.

Recently published research has also linked another bio-accumulated toxin (called BMAA) found in shark fin to serious neurodegenerative diseases.

“It’s really important that people know the facts, so they can make an informed healthy choice for themselves and their families and friends,” said Chanadda Thanikulapat, communications officer for Freeland Foundation.

“And for hospitality businesses, I think they’ll want to protect their customers’ health and the environment too,” she added

Part of a global campaign, Fin Free Thailand is being initiated with support from local NGOs and businesses, as well as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“It's exciting to see that many hotels are supportive of this movement and understand the importance of conserving the shark population and environment,” said Nancy Gibson of Love Wildlife Foundation.

“The general public plays the key role in this consumer driven world and we strongly urge those who care to step up and be the voice of those who cannot speak.”

Leading the campaign is Freeland Foundation, Love Wildlife Foundation, Thailand, A Call for Animal Rights and Onnesse. Further partners are being sought to help increase its reach.

“We’ve already had an amazing response from the community,” said Tul Pinkaew, campaigns director of Thailand. “I think the campaign will continue to gather momentum and we’ll see more and more hotels changing their policies in a positive way.”

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