Our Committment to Conservation

An Open Letter from Shark Truth Executive Director, Claudia Li

July 18th, 2012

Dear community members and Shark Truth supporters,

As shark fin bans are being introduced across Canadian municipalities, I wanted to take this opportunity to clarify Shark Truth’s mission for shark conservation.

When we first started our work in 2009, I was only a recent university graduate with little experience in how to work, let alone, run a non-profit organization. In three years, we have learned and accomplished a lot; 40,000 bowls of shark fin diverted from consumption, a major shift in perception on shark fin products in the local community, and expansion of our wedding campaign to one of the international shark fin trade epicentres – Hong Kong. We had ambitious goals in the beginning; to stop shark fin consumption in Canada within the first 5-10 years. We knew we wanted to work with the markets and on bottom-up change through shark fin products; hence, we set out to work on education, community engagement, and also advocate for legislation.

During one of the first Chinese radio shows I did back in 2009, I wasn’t surprised that all the callers who called into the show opposed the idea of going Fin Free. Many of them, like myself only a few months earlier, did not know about the important role sharks play in our earth’s ocean ecosystem and how many of them are being hunted for their fins. Three months ago, I went back on the same radio show and something changed. Every single caller that called in said they understood why sharks are important and has stopped consuming shark fin soup. Although a group of 10 callers from Metro Vancouver is not scientifically representative of the general population, the change in perception around shark fin products within my own network of friends, family, and professional contacts are palpable.

Through our annual Happy Hearts Love Sharks wedding contest, and our soon-to-be-announced Fin Free Restaurant Campaign, we realized this is where we, Shark Truth, are the most effective in shark conservation: by (1) building a foundation of understanding and awareness within our community (2) creating opportunities for the community to take action and change and (3) promoting intercultural education to encourage mutual understanding between communities.

It was only in this last year that I, myself, realized that shark fin is not only served as a symbol of wealth and status, but that it’s also served to illustrate an important Chinese virtue of “sharing your fortune with others.” Most popular at weddings, it’s our elders’ way of saying, “Look how hard I’ve worked to make a life for my family here. Now, I am finally able to serve this esteemed dish with all of you, my important family and friends”. This is why we remind elders that there are other ways they can showcase their generosity, e.g. donating a few dollars per head to a local non-profit or charity (*wink wink*) to show that not only are they generous, but that they also care about society at large.

Hence, I am excited to announce that we are refocusing our energy to continue working on education and with the community. Shark Truth’s mission is to not only get people to think about one course that is on the table at banquets, but to get them to change their minds, hearts, and hands when it comes to how we treat our planet and each other; whether that be with food or other lifestyle changes. This means we will not be directly lobbying for legislation but we look forward to working with other organizations and government officials to research and consult on behalf of the community when legislation arises. We are honoured and excited to be a part of this growing movement for sharks. On behalf of the Shark Truth staff, volunteers, advisors, and board members, thank you for your passion and continued support as we grow and learn from each other.

For the sharks, our oceans, and our planet,

Claudia Li 李妍蕙
Shark Truth Executive Director

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至社區成員和Shark Truth支持者:

當加國社區正在倡議魚翅禁令的同時,我想藉此機會澄清Shark Truth對鯊魚保護的使命。

Shark Truth成立於2009年, 當時我只是個剛畢業的大學生, 沒有社會工作經驗,更加對如何運作一個非牟利組織一無所知。在這三年內, 我們學習了許多,亦取得了不少成就, 包括成功地將相等於四萬碗魚翅免被食用,成功令公眾改變他們對魚翅的看法, 並將我們每年舉辦的無翅婚宴比賽伸展至香港 –  一個國際魚翅貿易中心。

Shark Truth成立的初期,我們的目標是在五至十年內於加國停止食用魚翅。 為實現此目標,我們知道必須與社區合作,使用一個針對消費者的策略。 因此,我們集中於教育工作, 社區參與,並主張立法。

在2009年,我有機會參與一個華語電台節目。當時,每個來電者都反對魚翅禁令。對此,我亦並不感到意外。因為,像他們一樣,在Shark Truth成立前的數個月,我也不理解鯊魚對海洋的重要性,亦對有多少鯊魚因它們的鰭而被捕殺豪不知情。三個月前,我上了同一個電台節目,發現有一個重大變化 — 每一個發表意見的聽眾都說他們了解到鯊魚的重要性,並已停止食用魚翅。雖然十位聽眾不能科學地代表整個大溫社區, 但我在家人,朋友和同事中看到的變化是顯而易見的。

透過舉辦無翅婚宴比賽和即將開始的無翅餐館活動, 我們了解到Shark Truth對於保育鯊魚工程最能發揮效用的地方在於: 1) 建立社區對這方面的了解和基礎; 2) 創造機會給予社區成員採取行動及改變; 3) 跨文化的教育,以增進互相了解。

直至去年,我才明白到魚翅不僅是一種財富和地位的象徵,它也可表現華人傳統中與他人共享富貴的美德。魚翅相等於我們的長輩跟客人說:  ”看我們的勤勞令我的家人安居樂業。我現在有幸與我的至愛親朋共享這名貴菜式。” 因此,我們經常提醒長輩其實有很多其他展現他們慷慨的方法。例如以每位客人名義捐出數元,這不但令客人感受您的慷慨,同時也讓人知道您熱心公益!

因以上種種原因,我很興奮地宣佈Shark Truth將會重新肩負著教育及與社區合作的使命 。我們希望公眾不單只去思考餐宴上其中一道菜的由來,而是希望去改變他們對保護地球及人與動物相處的態度,想法和行動 。這也代表我們並不會直接遊說政府立法。但倘若有關立法的議題出現時,我們會樂於代表社區與各社區組織及公職人員去研究及諮詢 。我們很榮幸及興奮可以在這漸受注意的保護鯊魚行動上出一分力。感謝您在我們成長及學習過程中的支持和鼓勵 。


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