The number of shark fins set out to dry like the morning laundry on a Hong Kong factory building rooftop is staggering. To look at the accompanying images and video, revealing perhaps 10,000 fins, and to grasp that sharks are being slaughtered at a furious pace so their fins can be used to make soup, one cannot help but wonder how many years will pass before at least some shark species are banished to extinction.
Shark conservation movements are growing, especially regarding the cruel practice of finning, but the striking imagery supplied by photojournalist Alex Hofford illustrates that conservation efforts, while they have made progress, have a long away to go toward stemming the killing of sharks for their fins.
Hofford states on his blog that traders have taken to using rooftops instead of ground-level markets to dry their fins out of public view: “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.”
China is the world’s largest shark fin market and Hong Kong is a hub through which many fins pass. Hofford focused his camera on a specific location: Kwong Ga Factory Building, 64 Victoria Rd., Kennedy Town.
Though it’s not illegal to posses and sell fins in China, most traders keep their operations at least somewhat private to avoid negative PR. Asked how he was able to obtain his vantage point Hofford responded, via email: “Evading security guards, running up and down dusty stair cases, climbing up rusty ladders, and general low-level paranoia!”
The photojournalist blogged: “The front line in the war against the shark fin trade has shifted from the sidewalks to the roof tops. The theory goes that after being exposed at street level, they have now sought to move their activities out of the public eye to avoid further backlash.”
Shark finning, which involves the removal of fins from captured sharks and the tossing of shark carcasses overboard, is increasingly under fire. The practice is illegal in some areas, including the U.S., and many U.S. states have banned the sale and possession of shark fins.
But scientists estimate that up to 70 million sharks are killed each year, solely for their fins. Most of them end up in China, where shark-fin soup is a delicacy enjoyed mostly by the affluent. It’s not clear whether the fins in Hofford’s images were from sharks killed only for their fins, but it’s easy to draw that conclusion.
“I feel disgusted with humanity,” Hofford blogs. “These shark fins belong in the ocean, not the rooftop of an industrial building. Rhinos, elephants, tigers. Now sharks. When will it ever end?”
It will not end, unfortunately, until demand for shark-fin soup shrinks to an insignificant level.