If you thought the shark cull in Western Australia was bad, you ain't seen nothing yet. A compilation of undercover footage taken over the course of three years at a factory in PuQi, China, surfaced recently, and the details provided by Mr. Li Guang, one of the factory managers, reveal some disturbing truths. According to the video, his factory houses possibly the world's largest mass slaughter of sharks-basking sharks, whale sharks, Great Whites and blue sharks. Much of his product is sold to European countries - mostly for makeup and skin care products.
"We went to PuQi three times in the last three years, and on each occasion the scale of the slaughter was truly staggering," Alex Hofford and Paul Hilton of WildLifeRisk said in a joint statement. "How these harmless creatures, these gentle giants of the deep, can be slaughtered on such an industrial scale is beyond belief - all for human vanity; lipsticks, face creams, health supplements, shark fin soup restaurants, etc. We firmly believe the trade must stop, and it must stop now, or else these animals will eventually face extinction."
Let's take this video step by step to examine how the world's biggest shark slaughterer does business.
Welcome to Puqi, China, a coastal town in the Zhejiang Province of China. This is where Mr. Li Guang's factory is located and where, according to one source, roughly 600 endangered whale sharks are killed and butchered yearly.
This is Mr. Li Guang, the factory's general manager. His fish oil factory is legal; however, the some of the extracurriculars that take place inside are not. He admits that in one year, the factory produces about 20 tons of basking shark oil, which he calls the "best oil," about 100 tons of blue shark oil, and when mixed with whale shark oil, they produce about 200 tons annually. His industrial shark processing factory is no mom and pop shop. This is a global business supplying restaurants throughout Europe and beyond with their illegally manufactured product. Additionally, the shark skin is sold as leather to produce bags and other parts-skin, stomach and lips-are sold to restaurants as food. The oil his factory produces is used in health supplements. Fish oil pills that consumers take to get their dose of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can naturally be found in foods such as wild salmon, are good for heart health.
Here's a sample of the factory's fish oil, which, as you see above, has tested positive for endangered shark. On camera. According to Wild Life Risk, some of the oil has been sent to labs in Miami, Florida, for DNA testing. But it gets worse.
When investigators stepped inside the factory, this is what they witnessed. Factory workers were slicing up numerous sharks of various species, sorting body parts and making the factory a lot of money in the process. The fishermen who sell the whale sharks stand to make the rough equivalent of $31,000 for each creature they poach. The sharks are reportedly then moved through a series of middlemen and agents where they end up at this factory to be cut up and distributed for a greater monetary return.
This poor guy didn't stand a chance. Sadly, he's one of too many who have seen the very same fate.
Here, one severed whale shark fin is loaded onto a dolly. At this point, Li Guang says they sell their shark meat to Taiwan in exchange for the bones and skin, to which the investigator in the video asks if they still do that. The manager asks, "Didn't they ban it last year?" seemingly without regard or knowledge concerning the legality of shark sales-his money maker. Since it is illegal, Li Guang goes on to say they've since started exporting to Sri Lanka. However, he's making money in both places as he admits they still buy from Taiwan despite the illegality of the transaction.
Last time I checked (less than a minute ago, according to my search history), the word "smuggling," means "moving (goods) illegally into or out of a country." In one fell swoop, Mr. Li Guang has identified this section of his business as illegal, though plenty of other words come to mind too.
Mr. Li Guang and his brother Tom run their business together, and, while they're not solely responsible for the declining number of sharks worldwide, they contribute to one of the most shocking statistics you're likely to see for quite some time. If you're curious about the disparity between human lives taken by sharks and shark lives taken by humans, here's what you need to know.
View the entire undercover video investigation below.
This article was originally published on The Inertia.