It was not your typical New Year’s Day wake-up call. Conservation photographer Gary Stokes, who lives in Hong Kong, was notified that someone had discovered a roof covered with shark fins in the city’s quiet neighborhood of Kennedy Town.
The series of photographs he and two other photographers, Paul Hilton and Alex Hofford, took over the next several days are pretty shocking.
Their images show thousands of shark fins drying on the roof of an industrial building. Stokes—who is also the coordinator for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), an international nonprofit marine wildlife organization—wrote on the society’s website that he received a similar call last year that directed him to a street full of fins and the footage he captured went viral. After that, “the traders have run to the rooftops to hide,” Stokes said.
In a report highlighting Stokes photographs, The New York Times observed “that a rising awareness that shark populations are under severe pressure because of soaring demand in an increasingly affluent China has led to campaigning around the world to protect sharks in recent years.”
Progress is being made on some fronts.
On January 2, a federal court rejected a request to halt California’s ban on the selling and possessing of shark fins. Reporting on that decision, The Sacramento Bee said that the shark-fin soup market in California was once the largest outside of Asia. But they still noted that critics of shark finning estimate that 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins.
“The main focus needs to be on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), who have the power to give sharks a protected status,” said Stokes to TakePart. “Only then can we confront the shark fin traders since at the moment what they’re doing is legal.”
In an article on the SSCS website Stokes also commented that, “Kill numbers are bounced about, but the truth is no one really knows precisely how many sharks are being wiped out...What we do know is sharks are creatures that are slow to reproduce, and are apex predators who keep the oceans eco-systems in balance.”
Additionally, the Humane Society International has noted that shark fin soup is essentially wasteful since after their fins are removed, the sharks are thrown back into the water to endure a slow and painful death.
Kind of makes you lose your appetite.
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Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence | TakePart.com