• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 7:54am

Inside the world's biggest shark abattoir: shocking pictures show scale of slaughter

Zhejiang plant 'processing hundreds of endangered specimens a year'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 11:36pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 January, 2014, 3:29pm

A Hong Kong-based conservation group claims a Zhejiang company is running the world's largest shark abattoir, processing hundreds of endangered specimens a year to produce health supplements and meat for restaurants.

The factory on the southeastern coast of the province processes more than 600 endangered whale sharks a year, as well as dealing in two other threatened species of shark, according to a four-year investigation by the marine conservation group WildLifeRisk.

"We went there three times in the past three years and each time the scale of the slaughter was truly staggering," directors Paul Hilton and Alex Hofford wrote in a report. "It's even more incredible that this carnage is all for the sake of non-essential lifestyle props, such as lipsticks, face creams, health supplements and shark's fin soup."

Hilton said WildLifeRisk was tipped off about the factory by a local wildlife conservation group in 2010.

In Pictures: The world's biggest shark slaughterhouse

"We went undercover, posing as an international seafood trading company looking for new products," he said. "The general manager of the plant was filmed saying more than 600 whale sharks were processed there each year."

Watch: Massive shark slaughters in China revealed by a Hong Kong conservation group

DNA testing of oil samples given by the manager, who also owns a wholesaler of shark products, confirmed traces of basking and great white sharks, which he said were processed in lesser quantities.

The investigation found that whale shark skin was sold as leather to the bag trade, the meat went to Chinese restaurants in France and Italy, and dried fins were sold to restaurants in Guangzhou.

But the real money-maker is shark's liver oil, according to WildLifeRisk. It is used in skincare products, lipstick and Omega-3 health supplements.

Hilton said the oil was taken to a factory in Hainan where it was blended, turned into capsules and exported to the United States and Canada as fish oil.

The investigation found the sharks were caught, either targeted or as by-catch, in the South China Sea, the Pacific Ocean and in waters off the Philippines, Indonesia and Mexico.

Hilton said there were probably other factories along the mainland coast.

Mainland media have reported that a whale shark can sell for up to 200,000 yuan (HK$254,000).

"There's nothing like this on this scale," said Hilton. "The amount of fins on the floor in the courtyard was phenomenal."

He said when he first visited the plant, there were at least 30 fins on the floor and more hidden under tarpaulins.

"It is legal to have a shark-processing plant, but the species they are actually processing are protected internationally and in China," Hilton said.

Whale sharks are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. China is a signatory and bans the export of products that come from endangered species.

WildLifeRisk is calling on mainland authorities to close the factory and investigate the company.

Hilton said it was a positive time for conservation on the mainland, citing as examples the crushing of six tonnes of ivory earlier this month and a ban on shark fin soup at official banquets.


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This article is now closed to comments

For those who don't get it, here it is in black and white. This is not like farming land animals that are bred for slaughter. Cruelty may be an issue, but it isn't THE issue. Large scale shark fishing is alternatively threatening vulnerable species in the wild (whale sharks) or removing the apex predator from marine ecosystems (predatory sharks) which can cause said systems to collapse. Find something else to kill / eat / smear on your face / flaunt your wealth to fellow diners. FFS, it isn't that difficult or complicated, people. Rise above barbarism and ignorance.
This is just an industry, our judgement should be on whether it is legal or it is hurting the environment according to some international standards. Sharks are abundant in the ocean, people all over the world kill sharks like any other fishes for food, that is entirely normal. But if they are purposely killing those endangered species or killing the animals in a inhumane way, that would be different. WWW or some world animal organisations should list up the species which are classified as endangered and not to be killed, and the proper ways that animals like sharks should be killed for fins and for their other body parts for food. Though I am a supporter of environmental protections, sometimes such reports appear to me that they do bear some political elements.
I am told that those videos on Youtube with sharks struggling in sea having their fins cut away are in fact made up. They said it would be difficult and dangerous for the fishermen to cut off the fins from a captured shark while it is still alive. What the fishermen have been doing is first of all to kill the animals with blows on their heads to stop them from struggling.
I came here to post some sarcastic quip but I left genuinely horrified. Whale sharks! The human race is sick. Get your **** together and get civilised, China and any other people who are buying these products.
Great Whites and whale sharks were considered vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN in 2009 and 2011 respectively. If populations are increasing, then it may be a sign of recovery from overfishing starting, but there are no signs of a plague of sharks. Whale sharks take 30 years to mature, so it will take a long time to reach natural ecosystem levels. The slaughterhouse is making a quick profit at the expense of wiping out a species. Once they, have, they will move on to another natural resource to over-exploit.
Disgusting ****, we should also slaughter people who run this business .
People of the whole world are confused. What are the facts and where do the facts lie? .Are most if not all the shark species in the world endangered therefore we should stop all shark hunting for whatever purposes, for fins for meat or for oil etc.? Or, it is simply that Chinese has a cultural habit of having shark fin soup, and some people in the Western world who do not like Chinese for some reasons, probably political ones, just use shark killing as a platform to demonize the Chinese (quite some comments here reveal such). Some world authority should speak up with a good picture of the whole situation about shark populations and shark hunting, so that all sectors of the world would be treated fairly. I myself find the PR initiatives by some hotel and restaurant chains to stop serving shark fin soup laughable. They are purely for PR purpose only.
lexishk says it all, barbarism and ignorance - plus greed without conscience. This has nothing to do with 'culture'.
Why are the Chinese authorities doing nothing to stop trade in endangered species?
Totally agree with lexishk.
The cruelty is an issue, but over and above that, possibly irreparable damage is being caused to the environment due to SELFISHNESS, STUPIDITY, and GREED.
For any doubters or those that would claim cultural insensitivity - complete nonsense.
Well, I think in a slaughterhouse were cows and pigs are slaughtered the pictures wouldn't be nice as well.
The consumption of shark fin soup is already declining from year to year and with the banning of expensive dishes at official banquets in Mainland China the demand will decrease as well. I don't like shark fin soup as shark fin itself taste like nothing. It is the ingredients the chef add into the soup, so you actually can use something else to replace the fins. But still, if the sharks are caught to be eaten so be it like other fishes. Just because one does not like shark meat shouldn't mean that other should restrain from it too.



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