The Manu Samoa Sevens and Tonga joined forces with the Hong Kong Shark Foundation (H.K.S.F), the Hong Kong Rugby Union (H.K.R.U.) and the Tuen Mun Sharks mini rugby club to raise awareness of shark conservation in the lead up to this weekend’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2017.
Sharks play an important role in the cultural heritage of the people of the Pacific islands and the region is a world leader in shark conservation efforts, establishing large shark sanctuaries throughout the area’s waters.
In light of the importance of the shark in Pacific heritage and the tradition of respect and value for the environment in Pacific Island culture, the Samoa and Tonga teams have agreed to hold a joint training session, for local media and members of Hong Kong’s own Tuen Mun Sharks Mini Rugby Club, to raise awareness of the plight of sharks.
“We were delighted to take part in today’s activity along with our friends from Tonga,” said Samoa coach Sir Gordon Tietjens.
“Samoa and the other Pacific Island nations have a deep respect for the environment and while we are opponents on the rugby pitch, we are proud to team up today to help spread this important message with the next generation.”
Following the open training session, the teams and coaches will put the young Tuen Mun Sharks through their paces in a rugby drills session, prior to which Yuen Ping Chow, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Shark Foundation will address the children on the issue of shark conservation.
Over 100 million sharks are killed each year, putting one-third of the world’s oceanic shark species at risk of extinction. With 5.5 million kilogrammes of shark fin traded through the city in 2015, Hong Kong has an important role to play in shark conservation.
“The Sevens is known as one of the city’s top sports events and has also played an important role in Pacific Island rugby, so it was a natural opportunity for us to try and raise awareness around the tournament.
“With the great support of the Samoan and Tongan teams, the Hong Kong Rugby Union and the Tuen Mun Sharks, we are carrying our message on the importance of shark conservation to new audiences.
“With so much attention around the international teams taking part in the tournament, this is a great opportunity for us to share understanding of this vital ecological cause among the people of Hong Kong and the thousands of international visitors attending the Sevens,” Chow Yuen-ping added.
Chow also recognized the efforts of the Executive Counsel and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, which helped HKSF line up with HKRU and the Samoa and Tonga teams participating in today’s activity.
The Foundation helps to raise awareness of the issue around the city with high visibility engagements at other major sporting events like the annual Hong Kong Marathon where Foundation supporters are well known for running in shark outfits.
Samoa and Tonga are two of the four Pacific Island nations participating in this year’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, with Samoa in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series competition and Tonga taking part in the World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier.
The HKRU is adding further support on-event by providing space on the Diamond Vision screen message board during the tournament for a special message from the HKSF.
The messages will play each time Samoa and Tonga take the pitch during the pool stages in their respective competitions on Friday and Saturday.
In addition, representatives of the HKSF will be invited to brief the 80 Student Ambassadors who will manage the HKRU’s student hosting programme on Friday night of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
The Ambassadors will in turn help deliver the message and distribute information on shark conservation to the over 8,000 students attending opening night, helping to amplify the message.
“We were excited to be approached by the Hong Kong Shark Foundation and to find the teams from Samoa and Tonga so keen to support the initiative. With everyone’s great help we can raise the awareness of this important local issue.
“This initiative is also helping us further one of our most important objectives for the Sevens – to ensure the event has a positive impact on our community, and we were delighted to support the activity, as were the Tuen Mun Sharks,” McRobbie added.