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Wrong Mix in Hong Kong Markets: No Asian Carp and Lots of Shark Fin

Josh Mogerman

Posted October 19, 2012

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Hong Kong Fish Market by jmogs via Flickr

I made a quick stop in to Hong Kong on my way to NRDC’s offices in Beijing last week. But while taking in the sights of the fascinating city in southern China, Chicago was very much on my mind…and to some extent, my stomach.

Knowing that a big fishing operation was underway back home as state and federal wildlife officials searched the North Shore Channel for Asian carp after repeated eDNA hits showed the presence of the invasive species' genetic material in the waterway, I found myself looking for silver or bighead carp in the fish markets. We have heard repeatedly that the Chinese palette is the secret weapon in the fight against the carp: if we catch the fish, they will eat them. But I saw no Asian carp in the markets on Hong Kong, Kowloon or Lama islands, despite big seed money going to fishing and export projects on the Illinois River. While this is a coastal region where one expects to see sea food, as opposed to fresh water fish, it is worth noting that there is a ban against commercial fishing in Hong Kong’s waters, meaning that most of the fish sold in the area’s markets are imported. It is just one city in a country full of big cities, so admittedly, I am reflecting a small sample size here, but despite the reported love for carp, their absence from one of the country’s most celebrated culinary towns seems notable. And it just reinforces what I’ve said before, our forks and knives are a useful strategy in the war on invasive carp, but the problems associated with the fish make it clear that eating them is not the solution, no matter how attractive it sounds. More must be done to protect the Great Lakes.

While I didn’t see Asian carp for sale, I saw lots and lots of shark fins for soup. And not just from the trolley on Des Voeux Road West, which is known locally as “Dried Seafood Street” (yup, its exactly what you think…rows of shops selling all sorts of dried fish). Nope, I saw it everywhere, including tony shopping districts along Nathan Road. I am quite proud of the important work my colleague Nick Magrisso and our coalition did earlier this year in getting a shark fin ban onto the books in Illinois---it is a barbaric practice that threatens further imbalance to global ocean ecosystems and the Illinois law sends a message. But I would have felt a lot better leaving Hong Kong if the relative availability of the two fish products was reversed. There is still a lot of work to do.


Hong Kong Fish Market image by jmogs via Flickr

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