Shark conservation: WWF-Singapore replies

We thank Mr Tan Keng Tat for his feedback ("Target the right problem in shark conservation"; last Friday).

Claims made that the findings of the World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore (WWF-Singapore) Shark Fin Consumer Survey were not independent and are unrepresentative are unfounded. 

The survey was carried out by a third-party market research agency with no affiliation to WWF and used a robust random sample for Singapore's population size.

The striking findings of the survey - that three in four would support government action to reduce shark's fin consumption - clearly indicate that Singaporeans are well acquainted with and will stand with the authorities to address the issue.

We are puzzled by Mr Tan's allusion that WWF-Singapore had implied that only Asians consume shark, although it is a fact that Asians are the biggest consumers of shark's fin.

We recognise that demand for shark and ray meat is also a driver of shark decline, and WWF is initiating conservation projects in those parts of the world where this is a problem.

Shark meat is not eaten in large quantities in Singapore, but our country continues to play a significant role in the international trade of shark's fin, and is the second-most important trading centre for shark's fin, after China, according to figures from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation.

I agree with Mr Tan that the problem of by-catch - sharks and other species caught and killed accidentally by fisheries - is deplorable.

The WWF Shark and Ray initiative works with global fisheries towards more stringent management for sharks taken in by tuna fisheries. However, our approach to sustainability cannot stop with sharks; we must strive to promote responsible practices across the entire fishing industry and increase public awareness about the need for sustainable consumption through tools, such as the Singapore Seafood Guide.

Complying with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) alone is not enough to protect sharks, as many shark species threatened with extinction are not included in the Cites Appendices.

Happily, additional action is taken by restaurants and consumers here who are already cutting back on shark's fin. WWF also understands that shark's fin is rarely served at government banquets. We applaud this responsible action.

With the public backing that the Shark Fin Consumer Survey highlights, hopefully, the stage is set for even greater efforts from businesses and the Government in tackling the overfishing of sharks.

Elaine Tan (Ms)
Chief Executive
World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2016, with the headline 'Shark conservation: WWF-Singapore replies'. Print Edition | Subscribe