I found it a bit funny that when the Peninsula Hotels’ announcement to stop serving the traditional shark fin menu from its dining menu, folks who ardently support its continued presence on the table can come up with reasoning from a seemingly bottomless bag of tricks. With only a few days before Peninsula officially starts to fulfill its pledge, shark fin merchants don’t have much time to persuade the iconic hotel — or its fans and partners who share the same idea — to back off.

Shark fins

A chef prepares shark fin to be cooked at the kitchen of a restaurant in Hong Kong. Pic: AP.

So it’s time to take a different approach: tell everyone not a lot of people know about sharks, and claim to be an expert on the matter. Kwong Hung-kwan, owner of Shark’s Fin City, a dried fin wholesaler in Hong Kong island, made the claim. He also believes his industry is a prime target of certain groups, including Greenpeace, out to disrupt shark fin trade.

There is only one Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong, but understandably, the repercussions of its well-publicized decision to take shark fin off its menu could be widespread. As a premier hotel brand, Peninsula certainly wields influence (its parent company Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd owns a number of properties) and may inspire others to follow suit, especially those who wish to realign its position towards sustainability or merely need a PR boost.

Mr Kwong even goes further by saying the talk about sharp decline in shark population is rubbish, dismissing a research showing an eight-fold jump in threatened shark species since 2000. According to environment group WWF, about 10,000 tons of dried fins, about half of world’s supply, are imported and traded in the western end of Des Voeux Road.

A certain Mr Chan, a shark fin seller in the area, uses different reasoning to present his and fellow traders’ case. “It’s not cruel at all killing sharks. There are so many sharks out there and if you don’t kill them, they will kill you,” he said. Yeah, right.

But maybe this trash talk hides a more realistic life situation.

“For some people in the older generation like me, we depend on selling shark fins as our source of income,” Mr Kwong said.

Not necessarily their backs against the wall, shark fin traders try to fight back with creativity. I guess nobody wants them out of business. But with how they use strange reasoning to protect their trade, shark fin merchants might find it harder to win sympathy from the public.