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Planet Ark World Environment News Wildlife Group Urges Guilt-Free Chinese New Year

Date: 12-Feb-07
Country: CHINA

Buy sharks' fin, sea cucumber and abalone only if from sustainable sources as stocks are dropping, and do not buy a rare moss whose name means "get rich" in Chinese, wildlife monitoring network TRAFFIC said in an emailed statement.

"It's about being aware of what you consume, and the impact it can have on species and the environment," it quoted Timothy Lam of TRAFFIC in Hong Kong as saying.

"Some people are not aware of which species are under pressure of over-exploitation. Our advice is based on threats to wildlife and the environment from unsustainable trade and consumer demand," Lam said.

The group, a joint programme of the WWF and World Conservation Union, said that abalone was particularly under threat from poaching and illegal harvesting.

"Ask your supplier if their abalone has been legally sourced, regardless of the country it comes from, before buying," the statement said.

It also warned that shark populations were under threat from finning, a pratice where fishermen just take the valuable fin -- used to make a soup served at auspicious occasions -- and dump the rest of the shark overboard to bleed to death.

Shark fishing groups, however, dispute that this is widely practiced.

As well as avoiding the black "facai" moss, eaten in the belief it will boost wealth, consumers should stay away from health tonics which contain threatened species, such as tiger organs, turtles and pangolins.

By doing this, "you can avoid having a detrimental impact on the planet's natural resources and (have) a guilt free Year of the Pig", the statement said.

Chinese are traditionally enthusiastic omnivores, and as incomes have risen in recent years consumption of everything from beef to civet cat and sharks' fin has grown accordingly.

The lunar Chinese new year starts on Feb. 18.

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