This January thousands of shark fins were found being dried on rooftops in Hong Kong. Traders, who previously used to let shark fins dry on the sidewalk, seem to have found a better place for this activity, out of the public eye. Passers by had complained before, yet Hong Kong is the world's biggest shark fin importer.
The traditional method of shark fin drying in Hong Kong used to be on the sidewalk. Despite a partial ban, the EU has been one of the biggest shark fin exporters to the Asian market. The European Parliament decided in November 2012 to close a loophole which had allowed finning to continue. The tightening up of the law is now expected to help shark numbers in European waters.
The shark's fin is key for the animal's survival as it helps them swim and steer themselves. Generally, most shark traders return sharks into the water once they have removed the fin. Without this important appendage the sharks are unable to move normally and often suffocate on the sea bed floor.
Shark fins are supposed to rejuvenate, enhance the skin and act as an aphrodisiac. Experts say that the huge worldwide shark fin demand is not sustainable. According to the International Shark Attack File, 30 to 70 million sharks die every year at the hands of fish traders.
Shark fins are categorized as a delicacy in Asia, not because of the taste, but mainly due to the fine texture. They are served in a soup on special occasions, like at weddings or at the closing of successful business deals, and are meant to be a symbol of honor and wealth.
Protests against shark fin consumption in Hong Kong are pretty common. Students from the American International School protested last year by 'plankmobbing' with fake shark fins tied to their backs. The Hong Kong Shark Foundation has asked Leung Chun-ying, Chief executive and President of the Executive Council of Hong Kong, to urgently address the issue.
Due to over-fishing, many different species of shark are starting to become affected by the finning trade. This is because most sharks have low reproduction rates and often they are finned before they even get to have their first offspring. The Shark Truth foundation says 25 species of sharks and rays are at risk of extinction in the near future.
Some say the issue of shark finning has struggled to get mainstream attention worldwide because of the animal's willingness to attack humans. According to the International Shark Attack File reports, some 125 shark attacks were documented worldwide in 2011. Of these, 75 were unprovoked and 12 were fatal.
Recent finds in Hong Kong show that the international shark fin trading industry is continuing to flourish, albeit out of sight. Environmental activists say the industry needs to be stopped.