Underwatertimes.com News Service - December 23, 2008 12:43 EST
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Alibaba Corporation has announced all Alibaba group websites will be shark fin-free on January 1st, 2009.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - www.ifaw.org.cn) has announced that Taobao (www.taobao.com.cn), China's largest shopping website, will soon halt the sale of shark fin products on the site. Taobao.com has told its 400 million online members that all shark fin products will be banned from trade on Taobao.com starting January 1, 2009.

Alibaba.com Corporation, the parent corporation of Taobao.com, has also confirmed that its flagship site, Alibaba.com, and all Alibaba group websites will be shark fin-free on January 1, 2009.

The announcement was made as part of a campaign by IFAW and Taobao.com to combat online wildlife crime. As part of the campaign, the IFAW and Taobao.com will share information about online illegal wildlife trade and jointly raise consumer awareness about the detrimental impact wildlife trade has on species in the wild.

As Asia is the main market for shark fin products, shark fin soup is readily available on the menu in restaurants in major cities in China. With the coming of Chinese New Year Festivals, shark fin soup consumption will significantly increase.

However, fueled by big profit margins and the increase in shark fin consumption, overfishing of sharks is threatening more than 50 percent of the shark species with extinction. As top predators in the ocean, sharks play an important role in keeping ecosystem balance.

"Consuming shark fin is not only harmful to the marine biodiversity, but promotes the cruel practice of shark finning, where sharks had their fins cut off then thrown back into the ocean, still alive, die a horribly painful death." said Grace Gabriel, IFAW's Asia Regional Director. "It is our choice as consumers to say No to shark fin products. Consuming wildlife equals killing."

Peter Pueschel, IFAW's Program Manager hailed the move. "This is really amazing and wonderful that the leading cyber market provider in the biggest shark fin consumer nation bans shark fins. What a strong signal to other auction sites and governments in other parts of the world!"