According to environmental groups, the shark fin trade from Hong Kong to mainland China dropped 90 per cent last year, from 1.2 million kilograms in 2012 to 113,973 kg last year.

And overall imports to Hong Kong fell 35 per cent, from 8,285 tonnes in 2012 to 5,412 tonnes last year, reported the South China Morning Post.

“We were very surprised when we saw this figure as the mainland has traditionally been Hong Kong’s biggest re-export market,” said WWF-Hong Kong senior programme director Tracy Tsang Chui-chi.

To the surprise of many, Hong Kong’s biggest re-export market is now Vietnam, a country without the traditional culture of eating shark fin.

Ricky Leung Lak-kee, chairman of the Hong Kong Marine Products Association, said the dropped in the demand from mainland China has really affected the local industry. Import prices dropped 60 per cent and business in general dropped 20 or 30 per cent last year.

Under CITES, eight shark species are banned from the shark fin trade industry. But animal welfare organizations are still campaigning to end the tradition altogether.

“The industry follows international law stipulated by CITES. There is a reason why it exists. I don’t understand why green groups and the government keep discriminating against us,” said Leung Lak-kee.

Activists argue that 100 million sharks are killed each year for the trade and that it is simply not sustainable.

As part of the international effort to stop the slaughter of sharks, Air Pacific, Qantas, Air New Zealand, Korean Air, Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Aeromexico, Eva Air and the LATAM group have all banned the transport of shark fins.

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