During our walk through the fish market we see a selection of different types of fin for sale. It’s a trade that attacks multiple species of shark, and, as our guide points out, manta ray is also sold as shark fin. We’re also told that all of the fins are hacked from the body and sold - the dorsal, pectoral and caudal fins - and this is reflected in the different sizes of fins we see on Des Voeux Road.
As well as differing sizes, there are different ‘qualities’ of fin. The fins drying on the side of the road, are the ‘cheap cuts’, a boney, frail looking fin, showing lines of cartilage. There are also ghost-like pale fins with frayed edges, these are the most common, and are the types of dried fin that you see bundled together in the plastic bags. On a side street we also saw ‘grey’ fins, a type of fin that has not yet been skinned.
Shark fin is a billion dollar juggernaut trade. Fins are cut from sharks using a hot knife, the remaining body, providing significantly less value for the fisherman, is thrown back into the sea, destined for death by suffocation; the fin is dried and sold. The fin is primarily used to make shark fin soup, a tasteless broth-like dish, normally served at important business banquets and weddings as a show of status. This practice has existed for hundreds of years but has boomed in popularity in the past two centuries. Fins mean money for the fishermen, and for restaurants alike, (we saw this dish selling in multiple restaurants the Sai Yung Pun area for up to 1000 HKD; about £96 at time of writing).
When we turn the next street corner, surprisingly, we’re confronted with a glimmer of resistance, an expression of revolt against the trade of tonnes of shark fin being sold on Des Voeux Road. A giant whale shark mural adorns a large wall. Dripping blue and grey paints line the whale shark on the cracked concrete wall with the words ‘finished with fins’ disappearing beneath the Hong Kong dust and grime.
Our guide to the area, a campaigner from the Hong Kong Shark Foundation is unhesitant in making his hopes for the future of the shark fin industry clear - a total end to the brutal fishing for shark and their fins. He recognises that what is needed is a reduction focused effort to change the heavily entrenched cultural normality of this dish. And whilst I agree, I was left concerned and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of fin for sale that I witnessed on a single morning and one a single road in Hong Kong.
Campaigners are speaking out against shark fin in Hong Kong. Hong Kong Shark Foundation work to raise awareness about the environmental consequences of species loss due to finning and look for ways to encourage the reduction of consumption, particularly focussed on Hong Kong. Sea Shepherd also work on the ground to monitor and take action against the industry, to raise awareness by giving public speeches, school visits and hosting stalls, all with the aim of changing the accepted nature of this tasteless and cruel ‘delicacy’ and to provide a future of freedom for all shark species.
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