Splashing out on yet another endangered species

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 November, 2007, 12:00am

The property and stock market bubbles have created an entire class of nouveau riche on the mainland with a taste for exotic, even endangered, species. The more traditional shark's fin and abalone are passe because they cannot throw away half a million yuan on a dish.

A giant yellow croaker (pictured), which is listed as a state-protected species under the Bureau of Fisheries Management and Fishing Port Superintendence, was recently sold to an unnamed restaurant in Zhanjiang , Guangdong, for 580,000 yuan. Someone offered 700,000 yuan for the 49kg fish, also known as the Chinese bahaba, but was turned down by the restaurant manager on the grounds that selling the parts, especially the much-prized stomach, could fetch 1 million yuan. 'The parts are worth more than the whole fish,' he was quoted as saying in a report on 'We have plenty of rich guys lining up to pay for a taste of its stomach.'

The fish has been called 'soft gold', because ounce for ounce, it used to cost as much as gold, at least until the metal's price rally in recent years. The species used to be fished in Hong Kong waters until it became commercially extinct in 1997, according to the website of the University of Hong Kong's department of ecology and biodiversity.

University ecologists said its numbers were so reduced it might already be too late to save the species, found mainly in the Pearl River estuary, from extinction.