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Enjoy less shark-fin soup, 'Jaws' author urges+.

HONG KONG, July 19 Kyodo

Peter Benchley, author of the best-selling novel "Jaws," urged people throughout the world Wednesday, especially those in Asia, to consume less shark-fin soup to save sharks from extinction.

"If you wipe out the sharks, there will be no more shark-fin soup," Benchley said.

"Every bowl of shark-fin soup involves killing a living animal. The fins do not grow back. The animal dies inevitably," he said at a press conference in Hong Kong.

The U.S. writer, who wrote about a great white shark that targeted and attacked human beings in his blockbuster Jaws 25 years ago, said sharks now are "much more the victims than the villains."

"The assumptions Jaws was based on were mostly erroneous," he said.

He said he "does not regret" writing Jaws, but added that 25 years later, he "could not possibly tell the same story today" because the animals are being destroyed.

The possibilities that a person may be killed by a shark are far exceeded by the chance of being killed by lightning, bee stings or in a plane crash, he said.

Joining international conservation group WildAid and the Hong Kong-based Earthcare, Benchley called for urgent global action to protect sharks. He said measures to protect sharks should include reducing the demand for shark fins, banning shark finning and managing shark fisheries properly.

The consumption of shark fins has increased sharply in the past few years, which resulted in some species of sharks being reduced in number by 80-90%, according to concerned groups.

Each year more than 100 million sharks and shark-like fish are killed, with many of them being destroyed for their fins, the groups said.

"If this keeps up with the current pace, the sharks will be wiped out. When that happens, the balance of nature in the oceans will change," Benchley said.

He said marine ecosystems and fishery job opportunities in some areas in Australia have been at risk, as sharks are overfished.

"It is time to try to redress the balance by saving these magnificent animals before it is too late," he said.

Shark fin is a luxury delicacy in restaurants and is increasingly popular food, which in turn has fueled the shark-fin trade worldwide.

Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan are major trading centers and markets for shark fins, according to concerned groups.

Hong Kong imported a total of 6,427 tons of shark fins in 1999, a 7.5% rise on 1998. In the first five months this year, the territory has already imported 2,900 tons.

The territory exports most of its shark fins to China, especially the southern provinces where consumption is burgeoning as the standard of living rises.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:Jul 24, 2000
Words:447
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