Corporate Malaysia 'FINished' with shark fin

A group of environmentalists are powering up support against shark fin in Malaysia.

Malaysia is one of the world's largest consumers of shark fin, prompting world campaigner Shark Savers conservation group to focus its attention in this market.  We meet the people behind this viral initiative to find out more.

Using over 200 black permanent marker pens, young artist Will Sii showed off his skills to pen a marine-themed designe on a Lotus Evora.

Sii’s talent is his contribution to Shark Savers' ‘I'm FINished with FINs’ campaign, the world’s largest shark conservation effort, wholly driven by volunteers.

The campaign was started in 2007 by divers with a passion to conserve the gems within the ocean - and has continued to push the shark conservation message to the public through compelling initiatives.

The 27-year-old artist drew free hand – using an artistic messaging style he calls ‘ArtWord’ - on the sports car as a volunteer in this campaign.

“Without the sharks, the ecosystem is not complete. They play an important role in the ocean, and ultimately, play an important role in the environment which we live in,” he tells us during the launch of the WildAid's Shark Savers campaign in Malaysia.

This is the Sarawakian’s maiden project for an environmental campaign, completing the entire design in just 40 hours. Sii had a limit of 100 hours to finish his artwork on the car.

“I researched the campaign theme, but did not do any sketches to prepare the design. I got into the 'zone' and drew free hand, using the black markers,” Sii says.

The Lotus Evora was offered to the campaign as part of Lotus Cars Malaysia's Corporate Responsibility programme.  It was chosen for its fuel efficiency and design, which resembled a slick shark, explains company director Hisham Othman.

The sports car will also auctioned during the campaign in a silent bid open to people keen on supporting this project.  Should the car be auctioned for a price higher than RM 395,000 – its reserve price – the excess amount will go to the campaign, Hisham says adding that the car’s market price is about RM500. 

“We're an enthusiast brand and our cars are driven by passionate people. We want to bring that same passion to this campaign to save the environment,” he says adding that supporting Sharks Savers was the company's way of giving back to society.

This may sound new to Malaysians, but the campaign has already made a major impact in Hong Kong and Macau. Campaign founder and Shark Savers regional director for Asia Pacific Jonn Benedict Lu says the effort has already crippled shark consumption and trade by 50 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.

“We're part of a collective world campaign to stop the demand for sharks fin and save this species,” he tells us, and hopes that Malaysia too will see a decline in consumption of fins.

According to figures from wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, Malaysia is the world's eighth largest shark catchment country and is ranked fourth for shark fin imports. 

“This means that domestic consumption of fins in Malaysia is high, since there is this strong demand for imported fins, even though this area is a large catchment area. This is worrying.”

Lu also says Malaysia should make the environment a priority, after Sabah's state minister Masidi Manjun pointed out a shocking trend last year where 80% of Sabah's sharks disappeared in over 25 years.

He says the campaign has received strong support from celebrities, politicians, socialites and ordinary people, and he hoped to engage politicians or lawmakers from all parties in Malaysia to stop shark fin consumption.

“We can draft laws to make it

illegal for shark fin trade, but that just drives the traders underground. What we're doing is to get people to stop eating fins.  When the demand stops, it will cut the supply too,” Lu adds.

At the launch, Yahoo! Malaysia, along with close to 60 corporations had pledged to stop consuming shark fins and stop taking part in any fin-related trade. 

The campaign's partners are HSBC Bank Malaysia, Mid Valley Megamall and the Malaysian Nature Society. 

Other companies that have pledged include IGB REIT, AirAsia, The One Academy, Golden Screen Cinemas and Standard Chartered Bank. 

Lu adds that the campaign is apolitical and ends corporate rivalry as many competing brands have agreed to support this initiative.Shark Savers Malaysia aims to get 100,000 Malaysian pledges to stop shark fin soup consumption. 

To date, over 25,000 members from 99 countries are part of this initiative.  Among the 650 celebrities and international figures backing this campaign are Prince William, David Beckham, Yao Ming, Richard Branson and Jackie Chan.

To make your pledge, go to the Shark Savers website here.