World NGO Day – Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation
For our final segment to celebrate World NGO Day 2020, we had a quick chat to the founder of Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation, Graham Buckingham. He told us all about his hopes for the charity in the future and his proudest milestone so far.
Since 2004, Bite-Back have focused on making the UK the first western country in world to ban the trade and consumption of shark products. By the end of 2020, they aim to make Britain’s retailers completely shark-free.
What inspired you start Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation?
It’s no secret that when I learned to dive, I had one nagging question for my dive instructor: “What do you do if you see a shark underwater?” Back then, my understanding of sharks was shaped entirely by newspaper headlines and movies. But as I became a more experienced diver and dived around the world, I noticed that any apprehension about seeing a shark had quickly transformed into a desire to see one. Yet it seemed that dive sites that once assured shark encounters no longer did. Where had all the sharks gone? The revelation that sharks were being slaughtered in their millions, often hunted just for their valuable fins to make shark fin soup, blew my mind. It didn’t take long for me to decide that the only thing standing between me and a shark encounter was a bowl of soup. In that moment, I felt compelled to do something to address the issue and I set out to end the sale of shark fin soup in the UK.
What are the key issues your organisation is tackling?
So far, Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation has inspired over 65 Chinese restaurants to remove shark fin soup from menus. We’re already 89% of the way to achieving our original goal but, along the way, we’ve added new campaigns. Now we’re working to end the sale of all shark products in the UK. We’re aiming to end the 20kg personal import allowance of shark fins into the UK. We’re also educating and inspiring the media to drop the ‘killer’ headlines from shark stories. We’re also focusing on reducing over-fishing, by challenging the country’s reliance on the same familiar fish.
What are you most proud of achieving through the charity?
That’s a tough question because there are several highlights. A big one was prompting ASDA to end the sale of 100,000 portions of mako and big eye thresher shark steaks a year. Then, getting the country’s only Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant to drop shark fin soup is another proud moment. Inspiring Holland & Barrett to take shark cartilage capsules off the shelves in 550 stores was a landmark victory too. Over the years we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy the support of high-profile celebrities, but the moment Steve Backshall MBE joined us as our patron was an incredible endorsement of our work.
What are your future plans for Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation?
Our plans remain the same. We’ve set out our goals and we’re committed to seeing them through before adding new ambitions to the list. But, now that Brexit is a reality, a key focus this year is on introducing new legislation, separate from the EU, to ban the 20kg personal importation allowance of shark fins.
How can people get involved?
I hope people see Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation as a charity that delivers optimism, passion and results in equal measure. But we urgently need support. We need people to alert us if they see shark for sale. We need people to take part in our campaigns and get friends involved, and we need people to help fund our work through sponsorship events, donation and membership. I think divers are some of the luckiest people on the planet, and I think it’s our duty to protect the oceans we enjoy.