Early tips from a Chinese wildlife protection group have led to the discovery of the ‘world’s biggest shark abattoir‘ along the southeastern coast of Zhejiang province, where more than 600 endangered sharks are processed each year.
After hearing of a Zhejiang factory that processes “hundreds of endangered specimens a year” back in 2010, the Hong Kong-based marine conservation group WildLifeRisk began a four-year undercover investigation (posing as potential buyers) that concluded in a recently released report detailing the extent of the damage.
WildLifeRisk director Paul Hilton said the first time they visited the factory, he saw at least 30 fins on the floor and more hidden under tarpaulins.
Whether their products end up being used for lipstick or shark fin soup in luxury restaurants (despite the latter’s being barred from Hong Kong last September and official banquets in the PRC last month), most of the sharks here officially rank as Appendix II animals according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which classifies them as “species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.”
In the official report, the directors of WildLifeRisk issued the following statement:
“We went to PuQi three times in the last three years, and on each occasion the scale of the slaughter was truly staggering. How these harmless creatures, these gentle giants of the deep, can be slaughtered on such an industrial scale is beyond belief – all for human vanity; lipsticks, face creams, health supplements, shark fin soup restaurants etc. We firmly believe the trade must stop, and it must stop now, or else these animals will eventually face extinction.”
Earlier last year, researchers at Canada’s Dalhousie University estimated that 100 million sharks were killed in 2000 and 97 million in 2010; however, due to a lack of sufficient data on shark catches, they guessed the real number of annual shark deaths could “possibly be between 63 million and 273 million.”
These Appendix II species are protected both internationally and in China, and their processing is illegal. WildLifeRisk is now calling on mainland authorities to both shut down the factory and investigate the company responsible for the illegal processing.
By Alex Stevens