• Sun
  • Jul 13, 2014
  • Updated: 10:14am
NewsChina
CONSERVATION

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

felicia.baize
My thing is that they are killing transient ocean life. The dolphins, sharks, and whales they are killing are not solely dependent on living in Asian waters. They travel, therefore they belong to everyone, not just Asia. If China/Japan wants to kill off animals found only in their waters, then hey, have at it, they are destroying only what is theirs. Just like China "owns" every panda, regardless of where it lives or was born, basically you have to lease a panda from China. But it is theirs right? Found only in their wild right? But they have no problem destroying what is not solely theirs due to "culture" right? Well their culture used to call for robes and samurai gear daily, but it changed. So maybe this needs to change. When they kill these animals, they steal from all of us. Just like the shark cull in Austrailia. They are targeting "big" sharks, namely Tigers, GW's, transients. They are not out hooking and killing their GB Reef sharks, so they are stealing from us all.
Hollander323
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
Still playing the paranoiac conspiracy against all Chinese card, eh Hollander? Yawn.
ULandshly3488@rhyta.com
At least their PR move benefits the sharks, which is more than what I can say for you.
Camel
@lexishk
For preparing farming land to bred animals like cows you need to destroy hundred thousands of square miles of tropical forest (Brazil, Africa). Then cows create alot of CO2 what increase the problems with our greenhouse gases. And talking about destroying ecosystems, large scale of fishing is happening all over the world. For your information (just in case you don't know it....), there is something called fishing industry existing in many countries, and yes, many of your so called @apex predator get killed in their nets (collateral damage). More than any other shark fin fisher can fish out of the ocean.
@caractacus
the Chinese authorities already show that they care and destroyed ivory in masses which they confiscated. Then shark fin soups are banned at official banquets (well, the reason was of course the costs). The demand for shark fin in the Mainland will dropp, so think before starting a Mainland bashing again.
lexishk
Camel: ever heard the saying "two wrongs don't make a right"? I guess it wasn't Confucius, as Chinese people seem to think it doesn't apply to them, but I suggest it applies now.
patricia.yunker.75
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caractacus
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?
scmp04
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.
req
Spielberg! He's the devil! He's the one that encouraged people to fear sharks!

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