A factory in the Zhejiang Province of China has been busted for the illegal slaughter and export of multiple internationally protected shark species.
Hong Kong–based conservation organization WildLifeRisk began investigating China Wenzhou Yueqing Marine Organisms Health Protection Foods Co Ltd. three years ago. The group's agents posed as members of an international seafood company in order to gain access.
During three visits inside the factory, agents determined that the factory was slaughtering more than 600 protected sharks annually, selling their skins as leather, and their lips, stomachs, and flesh to restaurants as food. Shark oil, extracted from their livers, is also highly prized as an ingredient in various skin care products and cosmetics. A single shark fin can sell for as much as $31,000.
The sale of these products is in direct violation of the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an agreement that China has signed. However, the local government has yet to take action or comment on the findings.