Photojournalist Alex Hofford captured heartbreaking images of thousands of shark fins laid out to dry on the rooftop of a factory building in Hong Kong that illustrate the need to ramp up global conservation efforts and ban shark finning altogether before shark populations are completely decimated.
The brutal and wasteful practice of shark finning involves removing fins after sharks have been caught and tossing their bodies back overboard – often while they’re still alive – in order to save space. This practice can also make it hard for shark species to be identified, which impedes population counts and subsequent management decisions.
According to Oceana:
Of the 307 shark species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 50 are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered, but only the white, whale and basking sharks are protected internationally under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Sharks now represent the greatest percentage of threatened marine species on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.
Clearly we should be more afraid for them and their survival than we ever should have been of them.
On his blog, Hofford writes that traders have moved from sidewalks to rooftops in order to avoid further backlash from the public. “I’m now of the opinion that this place has been operating for a very long time, and it’s only in the last three days that their activities have come to light.”
Photos were taken on the roof of Kwong Ga Factory Building, 64 Victoria Road, Kennedy Town, Hong Kong.
“It’s a slick operation. Straight off the boat and into the warehouse. A minimal journey time on land. Once the fins arrive onto the wharf by sea, it’s a quick and easy journey through the gates of ‘China Merchants Wharf’ (a private, not Marine Department, wharf by the way), and into the warehouse literally across the road,” writes Hofford.
It’s estimated that more than half of the world’s trade in shark fins goes directly through Hong Kong with the top exporters being Spain, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and United Arab Emirates, according to Oceana, which estimates that between 26 and 73 million sharks are killed each year solely for their fins.
Over the past few years, many countries have banned shark finning while others have made efforts to ban the sale, trade and possession of shark fins. Most recently, the European Union approved a strict ban on shark finning, which closed a loophole in its existing law and will now require sharks caught in EU waters or in international waters by EU vessels to be landed with their fins attached.
“I feel disgusted with humanity. These shark fins belong in the ocean, not the rooftop of an industrial building,” writes Hofford.
To see more, visit Alex Hofford’s blog.
All photos: Alex Hofford