Selling shark fins all in a day's work

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 December, 2010, 12:00am

People may be protesting against shark fin consumption, but that doesn't bother one shark fin trader. There's good money to be made in the animal parts.

'The sea is full of sharks. Who said they are going to be extinct?' he asked.

The trader works in an alley in the Western District, where staff lay out fins on the roadside to dry under the sun. The fins raise a stench that unsettles neighbours. Their sight also upsets many people. But that doesn't bother the trader, either.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, the trader, who refused to give his name, blamed environmentalists for kicking up a needless fuss about the popular Chinese delicacy.

'They are ridiculous,' the middle-aged man said.

'Americans eat hamburgers. It is also very cruel to kill the cows. Why don't they spend their time saving cows?'

He added that Western green groups were 'just picking on us Chinese people'.

The trader works for Wing Tak Import and Export in Chung Ching Street in Sai Ying Pun. Workers were seen sorting dried fins with rulers according to size. Fins were piled up inside the shop.

The trader said he had imported two tonnes of fins and sold them at HK$500 per kilogram to some factories.

The fins would be stripped of cartilage and skin and prepared for New Year restaurant banquets. The man said the whole batch of fins could be sold for HK$1 million.

'We are only a small shop,' he said. 'Those big shops are handling a cargo of fins every day.'

He only traded two or three times a year.

WWF Hong Kong marketing officer Silvy Pun Yuen-yiu said the group was not criticising any food culture. 'We are not talking about cruelty [to animals], we are looking at the whole marine ecosystem,' she said.

Hong Kong shares much of the blame for emptying oceans of their sharks.

The city imported 8,100 tonnes of shark fins, worth HK$1.89 billion, in the first 10 months of this year, according to government figures.

The body parts are harvested by 'finning', a process in which a shark's fins are cut off and its body thrown back into the water. 'Shark fins are not a must for us, but they are a must for the sharks to survive,' Pun said.

According to one green group, 15 species of sharks were threatened in 1996. By 2008, the number had jumped to 126.