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APPENDIX IV.1: HONG KONG (by HOOI KOK KUANG)


APPENDIX IV. COUNTRY AND REGIONAL STUDIES

1 BACKGROUND

In 1978 FAO and the International Trade Centre UNCTAD/GATT issued a joint publication, Shark Utilization and Marketing by Kreuzer & Ahmed (1978). This became a landmark publication but, at the same time, showed that follow up work was necessary. The joint study sought information on resources, marketing and technical and production problems, to enable countries to develop their shark fisheries. Since then many publications have been released by FAO on elasmobranchs.

Twenty years is a long time in fisheries and the characteristics of shark fisheries have changed faster and somewhat differently from other fisheries. The American Elasmobranch Society and the Japanese Group for Elasmobranch Studies, for example, have been formed and met to exchange information on advances. It was realized that shark landings were not adequately recorded, they were difficult to identify and in almost all records they are not sorted into species. At worst they were recorded as miscellaneous catches. Fisheries sciences have also seen tremendous advances and an update of the publication on shark utilization and marketing was necessary.

Besides, conservationists around the world began to consider that some shark and rays species were being threatened. The Shark Specialist Group was formed under the IUCN Species Survival Commission and world opinion was being organized. Education and public awareness programmes by green groups are beginning to have an impact. Shark fin traders have also begun to accept that more rational exploitation would ensure the continuation of their business.

The writer's contract was, "To write in depth on the Hong Kong market in shark products. Identify shark products by species with photographs and, if possible, to identify the species from which the fins or other products are coming.” This study was conducted through a literature review, updated from official trade and other statistical records, through interviews with traders and researchers and through correspondence. The writer wishes to thank each person who has contributed to this study; any errors of course remain his own.

The most important shark product traded in Hong Kong is shark fin. It is on this product that most of this report is focused. Hong Kong is a trader, processor and consumer of shark products, with each activity influencing the other. Some reference is also made in the report to countries in Southeast Asia where shark products are traded and consumed among the Chinese.

2 MEAT

The world catch of elasmobranchs in 1991 amounted to about 0.7 % of the total fish landed (Bonfil, 1994). In the same year, SEAFDEC (1993) showed that the equivalent was 1.95 % for the combined landings of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan Province of China and Thailand, indicating that Southeast Asian countries are rather better endowed than the rest of the world. Nevertheless, the percentage of sharks in total landings in Hong Kong in 1991 was 0.51 %. It appears quite deficient, even compared to the rest of the world. In 1994 (SEAFDEC, 1997), 1995 and 1996 (Fish Marketing Organization), Hong Kong’s shark landings were less than half of one % of total landings.

SEAFDEC records sharks separately from rays and all the countries mentioned above, except Hong Kong, provided landing figures for both. In Hong Kong the catch of rays is shown under miscellaneous fish. The average price in 1991 of rays in all the above mentioned countries was US$ 0.27/kg, and sharks were US$ 0.24/kg, or approximately 11 % lower. In West Malaysia, the price for sharks was US$ 0.33/kg, and for ray was US$ 0.85/kg, or about 2.6 times the price of sharks.

In Hong Kong rays are seldom seen in the fishing ports. It is assumed that the waters on the west are too fresh and on the east, where eagle rays sometimes occur, they are followed by those sharks which prey on them. Incidentally, shark alerts were sounded in May-June of 1991, 1993 and 1995. These sharks were believed to be tiger or bull sharks (Leung, 1997).

Traditionally, the consumption of shark and ray meat in Hong Kong was not widespread. They were eaten by the poor and persons who lived on the waters. Shark or rays were not even included in foods sold in budget eating places and definitely not in the more classy restaurants. When Hong Kong embarked on an aggressive programme of land reclamation to house its people, some groups, in particular the Tung Kah who mostly lived in boats, dispersed as a community and integrated well, and the eating of sharks in households seemed to disappear. However, it could be reviving, despite its traditional association with poverty, which Hong Kong persons are careful to avoid.

Consumption of sharks and rays appear to be linked loosely with the different dialect groups among the Chinese. In Hong Kong, where about 98 % of locals are Chinese, mainly from nearby Guangdong Province, eating shark meat is not fashionable. The Singaporean Chinese are more willing to eat sharks and rays. There are consequently tasty recipes for them at open-air eating spots. In Taiwan Province of China the meat of 7 species of sharks is relished (Chen, et al, 1996), with special preference for the "belly" meat of the Blacktip Reef Shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus), which they describe as the most delicious. These authors also said that shark utilization in Taiwan Province of China is relatively complete, depending on the species involved. The fins, meat, skin, liver and other internal organs are used and sharks also support industries such as fish jelly products, fishmeal and fertilizer.

Approximately five years ago fishing boats in Hong Kong which targeted sharks ceased operations and sharks are now captured only as a by-product (Leung, 1997). Kreuzer & Ahmed (1978) reported that shark landings in Hong Kong declined steadily from 2 200 tonnes in 1971 to 1 245 tonnes in 1976. The decline continued and in 1991 1 017 tonnes were landed, further declining to 228 tonnes in 1996 (SEAFDEC and Table 1).

According to Kreuzer & Ahmed (1978) and Parry-Jones (1996), shark meat was used in the production of fish balls. Shark meat has indeed been used for making fish balls in Hong Kong; it has also been scientifically investigated in Taiwan Province of China (Jeng & Hwang, 1979). It was added to certain fish jelly products, including fish balls in Hong Kong, because it sets rather slowly, even in warm weather. The prepared paste was delivered daily between 6 and 7 am; from factories to retail outlets within 2 hours. They shaped the paste, which may also contain chopped/minced meat and/or vegetables to taste, into end products before it set. It was also added as an extender when shark prices were lower than for other fish. About 85-90 % of fish balls in Hong Kong are made directly from fish while the rest are made from surimi, which is currently also used for producing dim sum. About 20-40 % of shark meat was normally added to the cheaper varieties of fish balls. These shark meat products have less springiness than the Chinese enjoy (Tong, 1997). It was also used in filling vegetable and soya bean products called yeong tau fu. However, by the time shark meat rose to HK$3-4 per kati[*] it became uneconomical to use. The volume was also too small to be worth transporting from the shark fin to the fish ball processing factory. According to Mr Tong, whose market share of fish balls in Hong Kong exceeds 50 %, shark meat has not been used for making fish balls in Hong Kong for at least 2 years.

On the morning of 10 September 1997, at Castle Peak Wholesale Fish Market, a small quantity of whole sharks were auctioned. I was impressed with the meticulous recording system being used. Smaller sharks were cheaper than larger sharks of up to 6 kg. This is the quite the opposite of the prices in Singapore where the smaller sharks were more expensive. The reason seemed to be that the Singaporean bought the shark primarily for its meat, whereas the Hong Kong buyer is a fin processor. The cheapest was auctioned off at HK$8.5 per kati and the highest priced that morning was HK$17.0 per kati. These prices are beyond those fish ball producers are prepared to pay. Indeed, prices seem to have been moving upwards for some years. According to SEAFDEC, prices in 1992 exceeded those in 1991 (US$0.65/kg compared to US$0.48/kg, respectively). The Fish Marketing Organization of Hong Kong reported that the average auction price for sharks of all sizes in 1995 was HK$6.30 per kati, in 1996 was HK$8.72 per kati, and for January-July of 1997 was HK$11.65 per kati (Agriculture & Fisheries Department).

Although the price of carcasses would be lower once the fins were removed, the quantity of sharks is probably too small (less than one tonne per day in 1995 and 1996) for a collection system to be set up and maintained. Moreover, the landings are probably seasonal. Only 16 tonnes were landed in the first half of 1997 while the total catch for each of the preceding years was 230 tonnes. I was informed by officials in the Castle Peak Wholesale Market that they had noticed the prices of sharks begin to climb, especially in recent years. They opined that it coincided with the publicity over shark products and health.

This may bring about a revival of the consumption of shark meat in Hong Kong. Parry-Jones (1996) reported on imports of small quantities of dogfish and other sharks in Hong Kong between 1992 and 1995. Most of them were re-exported. The average cost of the meat was between US$3.7/kg in 1994 and US$7.4/kg in 1992; the most expensive import being 300 kg from Peru in 1993 at an average cost of US$13.9/kg. As these prices are way above those of sharks landed locally, it appears that the meat was to provide for quite a different market.

In Hong Kong sharks and, whenever they do appear, rays are supposedly consumed in soups and stir fried with garlic and fermented soya beans. Hong Kong persons call these low budget foods “taste and appetite enhancers”. Cooked with popular sweet and sour sauces they help the staple rice diet go down more easily (Tong, 1997).

3 FINS

3.1 Volumes

Kreuzer & Ahmed in 1978 found that Hong Kong was the largest market for shark fins in the world. It has remained so ever since. SEAFDEC records showed that in 1992 Hong Kong and Singapore imported between them 98 % of the total world imports of shark fins (in value) into Southeast Asia, of which Hong Kong took 85 %. Singapore's imports, at 13 %, were a poor second by comparison. In fact, while Singapore exported shark fins worth about US$28 million to Hong Kong in 1994, Hong Kong sent only about US$5 million to Singapore. Hong Kong’s leading position will probably be confirmed, if not enhanced further, now that it is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China. While it has achieved its dominance as the world's largest trader in shark fins without China's help, Hong Kong will reach a higher level when extra help comes from China. Traders, however, feel that other provinces in China may challenge that position.

In 1972 Hong Kong imported 2 421 tonnes of shark fins worth HK$43.8 million (Kreuzer & Ahmed, 1978). By 1982, this had increased to 2 746 tonnes valued at HK$245.4 million (Lai, 1983). In 1996, the amount of shark fin imported was 7 846 tonnes valued at HK$1 859.4 million, rising from 5 292 tonnes valued at HK$1 463.9 million in 1993 (Hong Kong Agriculture & Fisheries Department, 1997), indicating a phenomenal growth in recent years.

Some of this is re-exported without further processing. There is a lag-time between the import and export of fins so that the figures may not necessarily refer to the same fins. However, over a sufficiently long period of time the figures do show trends, and in order to get these figures the volumes and values have been pooled and averaged for comparisons in this report. During the period examined, the volume of shark fins imported exceeded that re-exported in the form they were originally imported.

Hong Kong has another category in its trade statistics, “domestic exports”, to reflect those fins which are produced locally and all those fins, whether of local or foreign origin, which are further processed. The volumes of these domestic exports are small in comparison with figures of imports and re-exports.

Hong Kong also lands a small quantity of sharks at its 7 fishing ports strategically located along the coast. These landings have declined and now do not contribute significantly to the fisheries of Hong Kong (Agriculture & Fisheries Department).

Table 1 shows the basic figures of total imports, total re-exports, total domestic exports and shark landings in Hong Kong's landing and wholesale markets/ports. They are provided as a preliminary reference only. A more detailed examination will be made later.

Table 1 Import and export of fins and local production of sharks (tonnes)


1993

1994

1995

1996

1997 (Jan-Jun)

Total imports

5 292

5 704

7 309

7 845

4 042.0

Total re-exports

2 703

3 373

4 548

5 331

2 896.0

Total domestic exports

30

48

40

23

0.3

Shark landings

1848

1688

2233

2228

216.0

Source: Census and Statistics Department
1 SEAFDEC. 1991, 1992, 1993 & 1994. Fishery Statistical Bulletin for the South China Sea Area
2 Fish Marketing Organization, Hong Kong

Kreuzer & Ahmed's (1978; Table 44) figures for an item they called "apparent consumption" of shark fins for 1972 to 1976 put the range between 1 894 and 2 309 tonnes a year. However, they excluded the domestic export component entirely, possibly because it was so small when compared with the other items.

This domestic export was assumed to be dry (processed), and recalculated into equivalent dry fin (ie, unprocessed) weights. Nair & Madhavan (1974) reported a recovery range of between 2 and 25 % of fin needles from various categories of fins. Traders are probably less exacting because they said they expected a regain of 29.5 % in one case, and between 25 and 33 % in another. For the estimates used in Table 2 29 % is used.

In addition, Kreuzer & Ahmed ignored the local production of fins and the figures provided by them are different from those provided by Parry-Jones (1996) in his Appendix 2:1 for corresponding years. The calculation for dry fin equivalent is based on the findings of Anderson & Ahmed (1993). They found that dried fins made up about 1.44 % of the total body weight of sharks. This percentage is used as a rough estimate of the dry fins produced locally in Hong Kong, although it has been said that some fins may be picked up at sea from fishing boats of other nationalities.

Table 2 Recalculation of Kreuzer & Ahmed's data for apparent consumption of shark fin (tonnes)

Hong Kong

1972

1973

1974

1975

1976

Total

Annual Average

Imports1

2 421

2 368

2 028

2 470

2 250

11 537

2 307

Local production2

32

26

30

26

18

132

26

Re-exports3

150

176

134

161

227

848

170

Domestic exports4

62

31

34

21

38

186

37

Apparent consumption

2 241

2 187

1 890

2 314

2 003

10 635

2 127

Population (thousands)

4 115.7

4 212.6

4 319.6

4 395.8

4 443.8


4 297.5

Grams per person

544

519

437

526

451

2 477

495

Source:
1 From Table 41 of Kreuzer & Ahmed (1978)
2 From Table 40 of Kreuzer calculated by formula: Local catches x 0.0144.
3 From Table 43 of Kreuzer & Ahmed (1978)
4 From Table 42 of Kreuzer calculated by formula: Domestic export x 100/29

When the domestic exports and local production are taken into consideration, shark fins retained in Hong Kong range between 1 890 and 2 314 tonnes annually. The figures above are close to Kreuzer & Ahmed's in Table 44. They said that domestic production could be equal to or higher than the domestic exports and therefore their figures could be considered as minimum consumption. The recalculated figures for the years 1972-6 imply an average consumption of 495g per person per annum. This is in the form of dry fins, before further processing.

In their report Kreuzer & Ahmed (1978) remarked that "no clear pattern of growth or shrinkage emerges”. After taking other related information into consideration they believed that the trade was driven by supply limitations rather than by those of demand. Traders were constantly on the look out for sources of supply in the 1970s. Twenty years later we find that there was clearly a tremendous increase in total imports from around 2 000 tonnes to over 7 000 tonnes by 1995 (Table 1). The expansion in imports was probably stimulated by the attractiveness of increased prices, which increased the sources of supply from about 60 countries then to over 100 in the 1990s. However, in terms of apparent consumption the growth was less spectacular.

Similar figures were calculated for 1993 through 1996, and shown in the following tables. However, a further adjustment has to be made because of the introduction of technological advances into the trade in shark fins. Kreuzer & Ahmed remarked (p.33) that "fins are marketed in many forms, but the primary producer usually ships them in dried form only." Further, they noted that Hong Kong importers wanted only dried unprocessed fins. It is therefore quite safe to conclude that they reported almost, if not all imports of dried fins into Hong Kong.

In addition to dry fins, wet fins were also traded between 1993 and 1996; the weight of water therefore has to be deducted from the wet fins so that the figures from the different time periods can be properly compared. Indeed, the Census & Statistics Department reports these two categories of fins as follows. One was under "dried fish, whether or not salted but not smoked". This was taken as dried fins in whatever form, but not smoked. The other was under "fish, salted but not dried or smoked and fish in brine". This was taken as wet fins, but not smoked. Essentially, the difference was dry and wet. An officer mentioned frozen in connection with wet fins, but did not elaborate further.

Anderson & Ahmed (1993) estimated that wet fins are about 4.5 % body weight of the shark, and dry fins about 1.44 %. This implies that wet fins lose 68 % moisture when they are properly dried. When asked to give the price for similar pieces of dried and wet fins, a trader said that he would offer $50 for a dry fin and $14 for the wet fin. The proportions are very close to, but a little lower (28 %) than the regain figure expected from more formal observations. It was decided to split the difference, and use a regain of 30 % for the following calculations.

Table 3 Imports and re-exports of wet shark fins (kilograms)

Year

Imports

Re-exports

Wet

Dry equivalent

Wet

Dry equivalent

1993

536 931

161 079

284 015

85 204

1994

468 981

140 694

393 925

118 177

1995

1 187 506

356 252

905 126

271 538

1996

1 849 501

554 850

1 783 133

534 940

1997 (Jan-June)

1 006 619

301 986

1 003 796

301 139

Sub-total

5 049 538


4 369 995


Source: Census & Statistics Department
Dry equivalent = Wet. × 0.3

Figures from Table 3 were then used to compile Table 4 to show the corresponding import and re-export of dry and equivalent dry fins.

Table 4 Dry and equivalent dry fins imported and re-exported (tonnes)

Year

Imports

Re-exports

Dry1

Dry equivalent2

Total

Dry1

Dry equivalent2

Total

1993

4 755

161

4 916

2 419

85

2 504

1994

5 235

141

5 376

2 979

118

3 097

1995

6 122

356

6 478

3 642

272

3 914

1996

5 996

555

6 551

3 548

535

4 083

1997 (Jan-Jun)

3 035

302

3 337

1 892

301

2 193

Sub-total

25 143


26 658

14 480


15 791

Source:

1 Census & Statistics. Department
2 Figures from Table 3

Table 3 shows that considerable amounts of wet fins are re-exported in the condition they were imported; the percentage ranged from 52.8 % in 1993 to 99.7 % in the first half of 1997. These proportions did not rise gradually, indicating clearly that there are time lags and other considerations in the trading of fins. It is observed that consumption of fins begins to rise each year around the eighth month of the lunar calendar, and taper off after the lunar New Year. (Dates on the lunar calendar are different from the Gregorian calendar.)

The figures were then pooled to give the sub-totals for trade volumes. The amount of wet fins re-exported was 86.5 % during 1993-7 (Table 3), while the amount of dry fins re-exported without any further processing was 57.6 % (Table 4); about 30 % less. This percentage indicates that traders are more likely to re-export wet fins. Since wet fins probably incur higher storage costs they are probably re-exported or processed soon after import, especially in the warmer summer months. Between 1993 and 1997, 75 to 91 % of all wet fins re-exported went to China (Census & Statistics Department).

We now calculate the corresponding dry fin equivalents for domestic export and local production (Table 5). The domestic exports are recorded in dry and wet fins, but product descriptions were lacking. It was therefore assumed for this report that they are processed dry and wet fins.

Table 5 Dry fin equivalents for domestic export and local production (tonnes)


1993

1994

1995

1996

Total (1993-6)

Domestic exports, dry fin1

11

30

29

12

82

Domestic exports, wet fin1

19

18

11

11

59

Domestic exports, dry fin equivalent

65

61

37

38

201

Domestic exports, sub total

76

91

66

50

283

Local fin production2

848

688

233

228

1 997

Local dry fin equivalent production

12

10

3

3

28

Source:
1 Census & Statistics Department
Domestic exports, dry fin equivalent = Domestic exports × 100 B 29
2 From Table 1
Local dry fin equivalent production = Local fin production × 0.0144

We recall that Kreuzer & Ahmed said that domestic production could be equal to or higher than domestic exports in the seventies. We see that in the 1990s domestic exports far exceeded local production but that they are both decreasing with time (Table 5). Since they are both activities concerned with processing, this indicates that this labour intensive activity is on the decline in Hong Kong.

Table 6 Dry fins retained in Hong Kong (tonnes)


Imports

Local fins

Re-exports

Domestic exports

Total retained

Source ®

Table 4

Table 5

Table 4

Table 5

(A+B).-.(C+D)


A

B

C

D


1993

4 916

12

2 504

76

2 348

1994

5 376

10

3 097

91

2 198

1995

6 478

3

3 914

66

2 501

1996

6 551

3

4 083

50

2 421

Sub-total

23 321

28

13 598

283

9 468

The imports and re-exports show a similar trend, as they should, in both the raw and re-calculated figures. This trend indicates Hong Kong's strengthening hold on the shark fin entrepôt trade. The presumed local production of dry fins from sharks landed in Hong Kong and domestic exports of processed fins declines steadily over the years. This continued fall in quantity of sharks landed, which was also noticed by tradesmen at the Castle Peak Fishing Port, and the steady decline in local shark fin processing coincides with the ever increasing cost and shortage of skilled technicians.

Table 6 shows total retained dry fins ranged between 2 198 and 2 501 tonnes in this period. This is more than in the 1970s but there is a wide overlap with the recalculated "apparent consumption" in 1972-6, see Table 2. Rough estimates calculated from Lai's (1983) figures show that retained fins in 1982 were between 2 389 and 2 581 tonnes, also in the same neighbourhood. When we take into consideration the fact that in the early seventies the population was slightly over 4 million, while in the mid-nineties it was slightly over 6 million, shark fin traders may have something to think about.

When we calculate the average consumption of dry fins for the period 1993-6 we get a figure of 387g per Hong Kong person per year (annual average retained fins of 2 367 tonnes divided by average population of 6 111 750). This figure is for dried fins, and can be compared with the figure calculated for the seventies, which was 495g. This shortfall of 108g per person per year in dry fins could be compensated for by improvements in processing efficiency and other technological advances over the 20 years, so perhaps the average consumer does not notice any difference in the amount of shark fin in his bowl.

But this figure has not taken into consideration the increase in tourist arrivals. In 1976 it was 1.6 million and it has risen steadily to 11.7 million in 1996. Hong Kong has a well-deserved reputation as a haven for Chinese food and at least the Asians among the tourists will enjoy a bowl of shark fin soup. The results in Table 6 are surprising because Hong Kong has prospered and we expect to see more shark fin eaten, even if there is restraint because of the price. What we actually see is possibly a conspicuous restraint on consumption, possibly because that bowl of shark fin is actually meant for special occasions among the Chinese.

Marriage is one such occasion. In 1976 there were 9 marriages per 1 000 persons (Census & Statistics Department). The population then was 4 444 000 which gives 39 996 marriages. In 1986 there were 8 marriages per 1 000 persons. The population was then 5 525 000 so there were 44 200 marriages. By 1996, when the population went up to 6 311 000, the marriage rate was 6 per 1 000, or 37 866 marriages. So the number of marriage banquets has decreased in the nineties, and the Chinese are a frugal people at heart.

Above all, this figure does not take into consideration the special trading relationship which Hong Kong has cultivated with China. This may have a significant influence on the consumption of shark fin in Hong Kong by reducing its availability to Hong Kong and thus driving up the price. Kreuzer & Ahmed (1978) found that between 1972 and 1976 Hong Kong re-exported less than 10 % of shark fin it imported. They did not record any exports of shark fin to China, although fins were imported in small quantities from China. However, by the nineties, China had become Hong Kong’s leading partner in the shark fin trade. In 1995 China exported 1 713 tonnes of dried fins to Hong Kong; approximately 28 % of total imports. In the same year China imported 3 302 tonnes of dried fins from Hong Kong, which constituted about 91 % of all Hong Kong’s re-exports.

One of the attractions posed by China is a waiver of customs duties on shark fin sent from Hong Kong to China, provided that 30-50 % of the original weight is returned to Hong Kong. In 1995, when 1 713 tonnes of processed fins were returned to Hong Kong for the 3 302 tonnes imported from there, the percentage seems to satisfy the condition quite neatly.

There are approximately 300 traders who deal in shark fin and other seafoods in Hong Kong. In 1997 about half of them already have established processing plants in China. The plants are there because labour costs are about 35 % of those in Hong Kong, among other reasons. Processing is labour intensive, with practically no mechanised equipment, because of the huge variability in the shape, size and other characteristics of the fins.

Parry-Jones (1996 Appendix 2:13) observed that the percentage of re-exports of dry fins to China (in the same condition as imported) increased from just 11 % in 1980 to 91 % in 1995. In 1996 dry fins re-exported from Hong Kong amounted to 3 548 tonnes, of which 3 198 tonnes, approximately 90 %, went to China (Census & Statistics Department). China is probably a net importer of shark fin for its own consumption. The trading connection with China clearly has to be investigated further. It may be one of the reasons for the hefty price increase in fins.

What is alarming is that the retained fins, or presumed consumption in Hong Kong, appears to be decreasing from year to year. This is good news for the conservationists and imitation shark fin manufacturers. As an aside, Premier Vincent Siew of Taiwan Province of China decreed (The Sunday Times, 5 Oct, '97) on 1 Oct 97 that, in an effort to protect wildlife, no shark fin would be served at dinners hosted by him.

Traders all over the world are protective of their secrets and Hong Kong traders are no different. While they have been consistent in reporting volumes fairly accurately, they have never commented on the accuracy of declared values. They may also have changed their processing methods, resulting in increased volume of fin needles, without the consumer ever noticing it.

3.2 Prices

The cost of that delicious bowl of shark fin soup has increased everywhere in the world. Kreuzer & Ahmed (1978) reported that the average price of imported shark fins from 1972 to 1976 moved within the range of HK$15.19/kg in 1975 and HK$30.01/kg in 1976. They remarked that both wholesale and retail prices of dried fins changed frequently. This report therefore pools figures for several years together to dampen these variations for a better understanding of the Hong Kong trade. The average cost of imported shark fin between 1972 and 1976 was HK$22.5/kg (HK$259 678 000 divided by 11 537tonnes). The value in 1982 was HK$89.37/kg (Lai,1983). Between 1993 and 1997 the range in prices of imported dry fins had risen to between HK$282/kg and HK$314/kg (Table 8). The average price of imported fins between 1993 and 1996 was HK$295.3/kg (HK$6 528 million divided by 22 108 tonnes). The average price of imports in 1982 therefore increased approximately fourfold when compared to the seventies and the average increase between the seventies and nineties was about 13 times.

On this information alone it is readily understandable that the cost of a bowl of shark fin in Hong Kong should have gone up many times over. The prices in lower range Chinese restaurants in September 1997 were about HK$70 per person portion; for mid-range restaurants it was about HK$100 and for top range restaurants and hotels it could range from HK$200-300 per person serving (Man, 1997). Since Man started working in hotels in Hong Kong, he noticed the rise in prices from twenty years ago when the Furama Hotel served shark fin soup at about HK$20 per person. He himself, as a middle-income wage earner, eats shark fin soup about 4-5 times a year, but mainly at wedding banquets. Parry-Jones (1996) cited US$90 as the upper end of the range, which may also have been for dining at super top-class restaurants/hotels.

The price by itself will not deter the Hong Kong person from his one or two bowls of shark fin soup a year served at banquets. One prominent trader said that it was not an item which can be substituted, such as a vegetable dish. All Hong Kong persons said they did not expect the eating of shark fin to stop; it will continue to be served at banquets, even if the price continued increasing. It has something to do with "giving face to one's guests", even though the actual amount of shark fin in the bowl may have to be thinned out to adjust the cost to one's pocket. It is also perceived as a food which promotes one's health and is of value in the Chinese's world-view. Hence even the poor in Hong Kong will pay and bear it, but only at banquets for special occasions. Man (loc cit) also provided a rough rule of thumb for the bowl of shark fin in the budget allocation; up to about one fifth of the cost of the total cost of the food. For example, for a table (10-12 persons) of about HK$3,500, he mentioned that the cost of the shark fin soup would be around HK$500-600, and for a table of between HK$5,000-6,000, the soup would be about HK$1,200. These are probably near to threshold costs.

Hong Kong persons of tertiary education and varying conservationist tendencies explained that a wedding or birthday banquet is expected to serve shark fin soup; it is not an item which can be taken lightly in Hong Kong. One such person in his mid-twenties who studied in an Australian university explained it this way when he was asked whether he would include shark fin in the menu of his children's wedding banquet. He said that so long as sharks are not proven to be endangered, he would. I expect that the consumption of shark fin over the next 25 years is likely to remain at between two and four banquets per year, depending on the zodiac sign. Of course, the rich can afford to eat it more than once a week if they so chose.

A shark fin dealer, who now runs the family business begun by his father, estimated that banquets consumed between two to three times the amount of shark fin eaten at business entertainment, ie. approximately 70:25 %. He added that there was a drift towards the business entertainment component, ie, a move towards approximately 65:30 %. Less formal family gatherings and cook-at-homes only took in about 5 % of the total Hong Kong sales.

This was difficult to understand because of the large number of retail outlets along Des Voeux Road, Wing Lok Street, Ko Shing Street, Bonham Strand West area, where the dried seafood retail outlets congregate. The retailers also revealed that, in addition to sales to Hong Kong households, their target was tourists. They were clearly concerned that the disturbances in the exchange rates of Southeast Asian countries in Aug/Sep 97 would affect their sales.

Other factors also show why cost was increasing. Kreuzer & Ahmed (1978) observed that the cost of shark fin re-exported from Hong Kong in the form that they were imported, without further processing, ranged between HK$29.37/kg in 1972 and HK$46.08/kg in 1976. As the average import price was HK$22.5/kg in the early seventies, this demonstrates the astuteness of the Hong Kong trader in making a profit from shark fin.

Between 1993 and 1997 the prices of re-exported dry fins ranged from HK$109/kg in 1994/5 to HK$139/kg in 1997 (Jan to Jun), while prices of imports averaged HK$295.3/kg. The Hong Kong trader is still astute, if not more so, in making a profit in the nineties even if these figures seemed to hide that ability. They were however generally coy about their methods, and moved quickly to other topics by saying they were in a difficult business.

One of the ways was to sort the fins imported into Hong Kong in order to retain the more expensive ones for local processing, and despatching the cheaper varieties elsewhere. The more expensive fins, processed by more costly but more skilled workers in Hong Kong, ensures that the local restaurants have the best quality fins, for which a higher charge would apply.

Then there is the special trading link with China. Fins began their rush between Hong Kong and China in the mid-eighties. In December, 1984 The Joint Declaration was signed: Hong Kong would be a Special Administrative Region of China in 1997 for the next 50 years. It will have its own government and enjoy a high degree of autonomy under the principle of "one country, two systems". Companies began positioning themselves to advantage under the system. Not only were businesses expanded from Hong Kong into China, but Chinese companies also began to take root in Hong Kong. Traders say that fins go to China to seek out cheaper processing costs.

Table 7 Average prices of imported dry fins from the world, China and Singapore

Origin of Imports

Item

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997
(Jan-Jun)

Total and
Average

World

Volume (tonnes)

4 755

5 235

6 122

5 996

3 035

25 143

Value (HK$ million)

1 416

1 479

1 923

1 710

867

7 395

HK$/kg

297.8

282.5

314.1

285.2

285.7

294.1

China

Volume (tonnes)

1 034

1 208

1 712

1 946

977

6 877

Value (HK$ million)

169

195

330

384

164

1 242

HK$/kg

163.4

161.4

192.8

197.3

167.9

180.6

Singapore

Volume (tonnes)

551

698

579

412

183

2 423

Value (HK$ million)

165

212

228

137

72

814

HK$/kg

299.5

303.7

393.8

332.5

393.4

335.9

Source: Import volume and value are abridged from Census & Statistics Department

The average unit price of dry fins imported from China is lower than the average for total imports while imports from Singapore are higher than average in price. Import volumes from China in corresponding years exceeded those from Singapore by between 2 and 5 times and the value of China’s imports was almost 3 times Singapore’s in 1996. Both the volume and value of imports from China into Hong Kong increased from 1993 to 1997.

Table 8 Average prices of re-exported dry fins to the world, China and Singapore

Destination

Item

1993

1994

1995

1996

Total and Average

World

Volume (tonnes)

2 419

2 979

3 642

3 548

12 588

Value (HK$ million)

309

331

420

484

1 544

HK$/kg

127.7

111.1

115.3

136.4

122.6

China

Volume (tonnes)

2 077

2 664

3 302

3 198

11 241

Value (HK$ million)

159

201

274

309

943

HK$/kg

76.5

75.45

83.0

96.6

83.9

Singapore

Volume (tonnes)

137

105

131

135

508

Value (HK$ million)

43

34

45

55

177

HK$/kg

313.9

323.8

343.5

407.4

348.4

Source: Volume and value abridged from Census & Statistics Department

Hong Kong's re-exports to China are cheaper than the average of all its re-exports. Its re-exports between 1993 and 1996 to Singapore were 4 times as expensive as those sent to China (Table 8). The percentage of Hong Kong's re-exports to China also grew to 90 % of all of Hong Kong's re-exports in 1996 (Table 8).

The volume of re-exports to China is larger than the imports from China (Tables 7 and 8). In 1995 the volume of imports from China was about 52 % of Hong Kong's re-exports to China. Moreover, the unit value of fins imported from China is higher than re-exports to that country. This is in contrast with its trade with Singapore, which showed a higher unit value in re-exported fins in 3 out of 4 years. Other tables below also show that many of the fins are returned to Hong Kong after processing in China. Parry-Jones (1996) discussed in detail the special provisions between Hong Kong and China to make this worthwhile.

Intermediate priced fins (ie. between import and re-export prices) are sent to China as domestic exports (Table 9). These are probably sold to China to capitalize on the appeal of Hong Kong to the Chinese market. The price for domestic exports to China in 1996 (Table 9)is not a typing error, but I know of no explanation. The average price for domestic exports worldwide (HK$/kg 261.5), however, was lower than for imported dry fins shown in Table 7 (HK$/kg 294.1).

Table 9 Average prices of domestic exports of dry fins (kg and HK$ 1 000)

Destination

Item

1993

1994

1995

1996

Total and Average

World

Volume

11 266

29 903

28 970

12 422

82 561

Value

2 393

8 750

8 702

1 745

21 590

HK$/kg

212.4

292.6

300.4

140.5

261.5

China

Volume

8 156

23 895

24 336

10 560

66 947

Value

1 079

3 730

2 535

621

7 965

HK$/kg

132.3

156.1

104.2

58.8

119.0

Singapore

Volume

1 600

2 749

1 696

840

6 885

Value

629

2 209

4 202

364

7 404

HK$/kg

393.1

803.6

2 477.6

433.3

1 075.5

Source: Census & Statistics Department

The volume of domestic exports is generally low in comparison with other exports. There do not seem to be any perceptible long-term trends either. However, the exports to China are again cheaper than the world average and very much cheaper than those to Singapore. The exports to Singapore in 1995 were just about the most expensive fins! The most expensive in 1995 were, in fact, dry fins (not listed as processed): 1 154kg were sold to Democratic Republic of Korea at HK$3 037/kg. The North Koreans seem to make a habit of importing the most expensive dry fins because in 1993 they imported 30kg at HK$3 200/kg and in 1996 60kg was imported from Hong Kong for HK$7 633/kg.

Using Kreuzer & Ahmed's figures for such processed (ie, domestic export) fins, export prices ranged from HK$56.27/kg in 1976 to HK$137.22/kg in 1973, with an average of HK$84/kg (HK$4 538 000 divided by 54 tonnes) over the five years. Between 1993 and 1996 the processed fins were exported at between HK$140.5/kg in 1996 and HK$300.4/kg in 1995, with an average of HK$261.5/kg; more than tripling in 20 years.

A brief examination of the trade in wet fins follows.

Table 10 Average prices of wet fins imported into Hong Kong

Origin

Item

1993

1994

1995

1996

Total and Average

World

Volume (tonnes)

537

469

1 187

1 849

4 042

Value (HK$ million)

48

37

100

149

334

HK$/kg

89.4

78.9

84.2

80.6

82.6

China

Volume (tonnes)

64

41

72

46

223

Value (HK$ million)

8

5

7

4

24

HK$/kg

125.0

121.9

97.2

87.0

107.6

Singapore

Volume (tonnes)

85

35

296

114

530

Value (HK$ million)

9

4

23

8

44

HK$/kg

105.9

114.3

77.7

70.2

83.0

Source: Abridged from Census & Statistics Department

The price of imported wet fins from China is higher than the world average and higher than prices of imports from Singapore. The average price of dry fin imports was HK$294.1/kg (Table 7) and, compared to the price of wet fins, HK$82.6/kg (Table 10), the former are about 3.56 times more expensive. We may recall that a trader gave 14:50 as his pricing ratio for wet to dry fins which is 3.57 times and compares quite well.

The retail prices of wet fins in September 1997, just before the Lantern Festival, along Des Voeux Road West in Central ranged from HK$280 to HK$380/kati for prepared fins (see Section 7) to HK$480/kati for fin needles. These last-mentioned fins may be regarded as approaching "convenience" foods, in that they may take up to 3 hours to cook, while previously, starting with unprocessed fins, it could have taken much longer, perhaps days.

Table 11 Average prices of wet fins re-exported from Hong Kong

Destination

Item

1993

1994

1995

1996

Total and Average

World

Volume (tonnes)

284

394

905

1 783

3 366

Value (HK$ million)

40

37

74

135

286

HK$/kg

140.8

93.9

81.8

75.7

85.0

China

Volume (tonnes)

253

300

722

1 599

2 874

Value (HK$ million)

24

16

40

102

182

HK$/kg

94.9

53.3

55.4

63.8

63.3

Singapore

Volume (tonnes)

17

28

45

31

121

Value (HK$ million)

7

11

13

12

43

HK$/kg

411.8

392.9

288.9

387.1

355.4

Source: Abridged from Census & Statistics Department

Table 11 shows the re-export of wet fins from Hong Kong to China and Singapore. The cost per kilogram of re-exports to Singapore were much higher than the average to the rest of the world, and very much more than the prices to China. The re-exports to China cost less than the imports of wet fins from China (Table 10), confirming that they had undergone processing in China before they were returned to Hong Kong.

Table 12 Average prices of domestic exports of wet fins

Destination

Item

1993

1994

1995

1996

Total and Average

World

Volume (kilograms)

18 957

17 731

10 621

11 033

58 342

Value (HK$ 1 000)

8 834

6 942

4 808

4 680

25 264

HK$/kg

466.0

391.5

452.7

424.2

433.0

China

Volume (kilograms)

6 736

7 941

2 943

1 120

18 740

Value (HK$ 1 000)

2 404

1 650

389

152

4 595

HK$/kg

356.9

207.8

132.2

135.7

245.2

Singapore

Not available

Source: Census & Statistics Department

The volume of wet fins declared as domestic exports (ie, processed in Hong Kong) is again small (Table 12). However, the average unit price of these exports is high, much higher than the average dry fins processed in Hong Kong (Table 9). Once again, the price of these exports to China is below world average. The type of products so exported was not recorded in the official statistics. Although these hydrated fins fetched a lot of money, they probably also cost a lot to process in Hong Kong. However, the volume and possibly the total value of these exports appear to be on the decline. The export of these fins to China showed a decline from year to year, with the value decreasing from HK$2.4million in 1993 to only HK$152 000 in 1996. Republic of Korea imported 7 340kg of Hong Kong's total domestic exports in 1995, or almost 70 % of it, and may be expected to invite their Hong Kong counterparts to rationalize their processing activities.

The Census and Statistics Department's records also provided some light-hearted distractions in this study. We saw the fins with the highest prices earlier on; the lowest were also recorded. Indonesia, Thailand and Brunei bought the cheapest fins during 1993-6. Indonesia bought 2 600kg of unprocessed dry fins at HK14.6/kg in 1993. Thailand bought unprocessed wet fins in 1994 and 1996 for HK$9.4/kg (27 400kg) and HK$25.1/kg (100 611kg) respectively. Brunei imported unprocessed wet fins in 1995 at HK$26.5/kg (2 720kg). Thailand has become a major fish processing country, with its capture of the top position in the export of canned tuna. The relatively large amount of imports suggests that it could be preparing itself for fairly large-scale re-processing of shark fin as part of its overall fisheries development.

4 OTHER SHARK PRODUCTS AND COOKERY

Products from shark liver and cartilage are found in most, if not all, Chinese and western pharmacies in Hong Kong. Shark liver oil capsules are imported from Australia, Canada, China and the USA. The retail prices of Australian, Canadian and American squalene products were between HK$100 and HK$440 per bottle of 60 to 100 capsules, while the Chinese product from Guangzhou was at HK$200 for a bottle of 80 capsules. Parry-Jones (1996) found that 1995 prices were much higher; the prices may have dipped because of competition and a healthy scepticism among consumers.

The livers of sharks landed in Hong Kong are not harvested for industrial use. They are probably discarded with the viscera when the sharks are cleaned for their fins and meat.

Shark cartilage products were imported only from Australia and the USA; no products from China were displayed. The Australian product was sold at HK$60 for a bottle of 30 capsules, while the American bottle of 90 capsules was sold for HK$480. Like the oil capsules, prices have gone down.

Shark cartilage used to be discarded after the fin needles were processed but recent publicity on the yet unproven curative properties of the shark has resulted in their retention in various forms for sale in the dry seafoods market area around Des Voeux Road West. These cartilaginous platelets are sold at about HK$38/kati (see Section 7).

Hong Kong imports a small amount of spinal bones. Some shops sold it at about HK$68/kati (see Section 7). Hong Kong traders are not yet fully agreed on how cartilage products are processed. One of the traders made the following observation. He noted that Japan has imported the cartilage of blue shark from Hong Kong for the past 20 years, so he boiled cartilage from various sharks for about 3 hours and found that the blue shark cartilage almost completely disintegrated into a broth, unlike that from other sharks. One of his aged relatives has found the brew, flavoured with ginger and salt, and optionally with chicken, pork ribs or frog jelly, to have reduced the aches and pains in her joints. The trader who let me in on the family secret however insisted that cartilage from other than blue sharks are not as efficacious because they have much less gelatinous material. He believed the cartilaginous platelets and spinal/caudal columns have dubious health value.

Sharkskin is not made into leather in Hong Kong. However some of it is processed and eaten in certain restaurants and food outlets. There is no separate entry in the Hong Kong statistics records, probably because it is traded in such small quantities, and in the SEAFDEC records Hong Kong did not report either its import or export. Between 1991 and 1993, however, Taiwan Province of China and Indonesia recorded exports of fish and sharkskin (SEAFDEC). A trader said that Hong Kong imports small amounts of sharkskin at about HK$20-30/kati; these are sold at HK$50-60/kati (see Appendix 2, chapter 7), more than the price of shark fin cartilage. Although they are included in some dishes, they are not specifically named on the menu as an ingredient. One way of cooking was described to me by Lam (1997):

Ham should not be used for cooking sharkskin, whereas it is recommended for shark fin.

Lam (1997) also described his method for cooking processed whale shark fin. Soak the processed fin for 2-3 days in running water, or change the water several times. The hydrated fins are boiled in water whereupon the fin needles contract to about half their length. Simmer for 2 hours and let the water cool for 3-4 hours. Soak in tap water drip for 15 hours or more, after which any residual smell will be removed. Cook by stewing or simmering on a low flame or steaming with various ingredients for about a day to concentrate the soup and to heighten the taste of the fins. The size of the fin needles from the fin shown in the photo (Appendix 2, chapter 9) will then be about 5-6mm thick and 15cm long.

Hong Kong imports a small quantity of shark fin in cans and microwaveable packs, but does not produce it herself.

Phipps (1996) provided an abundance of references for shark fin cooking published in the Chinese language. For a first reference in the English language see Ng (1988).

5 SHARK FIN IDENTIFICATION

The shark fin trade in Hong Kong was built up carefully by pioneers and the business passed down from one generation to the next. About 70 % of the businesses are run by owners and the rest by partners. Today, the owners/partners would often personally inspect the fins in the country of export before flying back to open a letter of credit. Entrusting this role to their employees has sometimes resulted in business losses, not because they are not reliable, but because they do not have as complete a picture of the business as the boss. A tremendous amount of goodwill and trust is also encouraged between the business associates.

Among the traders themselves, there is an unwritten code of ethics by which they conduct their business and face up to each other. At their auction sessions, which are held regularly and on the premises of each trader in turn, they exchange information about the trade as well as inform on cheats, defaulters on payments, and other matters. Where credit is extended but not honoured, pressure to settle is exerted by their peers. However, it appears that they do not actively exchange information regarding their dealings with overseas business associates.

The association does not organize training courses; one of the reasons is that the traders train their own staff through a system of apprenticeship. This is best exemplified in a father and son relationship. The training in this case is as complete as possible and practically nothing is written down. This is seldom, if ever, shared among the community.

There is no established system for naming shark fin among the Chinese. This is probably not very different from practices in other languages. Chen (1996) and Parry-Jones (1996), writing on the trade in Taiwan Province of China and Hong Kong respectively, carefully avoided using Chinese names. In some cases in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan Province of China, for example, although the traders use Chinese as a common language they may call the same fins by different names and different fins, which look similar, by the same name. Although they write in the same script, speaking different Chinese dialects probably confuses rather than simplifies matters. Mr Koh (1997), a Singaporean fin trader and processor who also produces fins in cans, felt only slightly uncomfortable when he said he did not know what were the names used by his Hong Kong counterparts for various fins. They name the fins according to their shape, size, colour, texture and the location on the body of the shark. However, the names given may not be related to the sharks from which they are taken, since they may have never seen the shark. Not only have no "keys" been developed but it appears that they may in fact not be welcome since it would disrupt a seemingly authoritarian system.

The publication by Yeong, Lam & Chew (1994) ran into 6 reprints within 2 years. One of the authors informed me that the book was being revised and is expected to be released soon (Lam, 1997) which is a good start. The publication represents the current status of shark fin identification among the traders in Hong Kong. They do not all call the same fin by the same name as yet and explain this by saying that they need to focus on the market value of the fins rather than their names. A list (Appendix 2, chapter 8) is compiled from the book to show the probable current status of fin identification among the traders. It includes fins with problem names. The list is not complete but it represents a start on sorting out an old problem. Lam confides he can identify 42 fins, further splitting these down to dorsals, pectorals and caudals. Some traders can manage 38 and the rest concentrate on just half that many to make a good living.

To hone his expertise in fin identification, Lam has a collection of fins, which he painstakingly displayed for the photographs shown in this report. The writer appreciated the time and information Lam willingly shared. The photos include a shot with Lam and his processed whale shark dorsal fin. The names of the fins have been checked by him (Appendix 2, chapter 9). In order to identify the sharks from which the fins are taken, from a scientific point of view, it will be necessary to use other methods.

DNA techniques have been used to make unambiguous identification of 9 shark species (Woodley and others, 1994). The study was prompted by the increased demand for shark fin and meat and the establishment of a shark management programme in the US Exclusive Economic Zone of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. The authors commented on the difficulties of accurate species identifications, citing morphological similarities of shark species, loss of diagnostic characteristics by finning, heading and gutting practices, and tissue samples (dried fins and blood) that are not amenable to routine diagnostics by iso-electric focusing. Since the identification of sharks by experts is so complicated, it is understandable that the identification from dried fins back to shark species may be just as difficult, if not more so.

More recent work by Heist (1997) on 11 carcharhinidae confirmed that DNA techniques can be used with confidence on the identification of shark species. He further believed that, although he used meat samples, there was no reason why the techniques he used could not apply equally well on fin needles.

In order to identify the sharks from which fins in Hong Kong are derived, it will be necessary to compile a list of names in Chinese. This will have to be agreed by traders in Hong Kong and other countries as a first step. Meanwhile, positively identified fins will have to be harvested from sharks and preserved to match the list of Chinese names. It is anticipated that at least a year's work will be needed but it is necessary to bring order to a complicated trade, even if that may reduce its mystique a little.

In the meantime, imitation shark fin has been produced from animal and plant materials. They have been used somewhat fraudulently and have not established themselves as an alternative in the way that imitation crab sticks have for real crab. Perhaps manufacturers should re-think their marketing strategy since traders in Hong Kong believe imitations are as good as rejected. This is rather surprising since Chinese vegetarians like to prepare their food to imitate meat products in both appearance and taste, such as vegetarian duck, vegetarian pork and so on.

Marketing in Singapore is straightforward and the imitation articles can be sold as such but there must be no attempt to deceive the consumer by slick advertising or labelling. The vegetarian shark fin is made from the extract of mung bean, the green gram, which is a widely cultivated tropical legume. In fact, mung bean extract is traditionally made into a transparent thin noodle which is eaten quite widely in Southeast Asia, and in Hong Kong is called fun si. Liu (1997) said that imitation vegetarian shark fin is quite popular in Taiwan Province of China.

Chew and co-workers (1992) in Singapore, investigated what they believed to be imitation shark fin of animal origin. They referred to the process for producing analogues using mixtures of gelatines and gums which were coagulated by divalent or trivalent metal salt solutions which was patented by Kammuri, Nagahisa and Kamikawa (1990). They subjected samples to microscopic examination, solubility in water and potassium hydroxide (KOH) solution, spectroscopy and hydroxyproline content. They found that imitation fins do not have any fibrous structure like the real fin needles, but instead have characteristic transparent homogenous appearance. Real fins under x40 magnification show connective tissue fibres uniformly arranged in parallel and aligned with the lengthways axis of the fin needles.

Both real and imitation fins are insoluble in water. Boiling at 100°C for 3 hours, and autoclaving at 10 psi/115°C for 30 minutes did not change their microscopic appearances.

When they were soaked in 10 % KOH at 25°C for 3 hrs, the genuine fin needles disintegrated and dissolved. The membranous attachments to the needles took a little more time to dissolve, and occasionally cloudy precipitates formed on standing, but they quickly dispersed on gentle shaking. The five imitation products they examined remained intact even after 30 days in KOH at room temperature. Changes observed were slight swelling of the needles, a softening of texture, and a loss of yellow coloration into the solution. Under the microscope the needles showed numerous vacuoles consistent with swelling.

The extracts from soaking in 10 % KOH for 3 hrs at 25°C showed different spectrophotometric profiles. Real shark fin showed 3 peaks at 292nm[*], 240nm and one between 220-230nm. The solution from the imitation fins soaked for 3 hours in 10 % KOH showed only a single peak at 220-230nm. The blank 10 % KOH solution also had an absorption peak at between 220-230nm. Boiling the real and imitation needles resulted in dissolution of the former and four out of five of the latter. Nevertheless, their absorption spectra remained unchanged. The authors believed that the absorption mixture at 240 and 292 coincided with that of tyrosine in alkaline conditions; shark fin contains a high proportion of this amino acid.

They also found that hydroxyproline was not a suitable test for imitation shark fin because the test itself was time-consuming and manufacturers could easily switch to a gelatine derived from fish to mask the fact that the product was an imitation.

Authentication tests are still provided by the Singapore authorities but the laboratory has not been engaged to provide this service for several years. This is because imitation fins appear to be pitted against a haloed article. Besides, armed with a simple chemistry set and microscope, a schoolchild can tell the difference between the fins.

6 REFERENCES

Anderson, R.C., and H. Ahmed. 1993. The shark fisheries of the Maldives. Cited in Rose, 1996, below.

Annual Report. 1996-7. Fish Marketing Organization, Hong Kong.

Bonfil, R. 1994. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper 341.

Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong. Serials.

Chan, K.H. 1997. Agriculture and Fisheries Department, Hong Kong. (Personal communication)

Chen, G.C.T., K.M. Liu, S.J. Joung, and M.J. Phipps. 1996. Shark fisheries and trade in Taiwan. TRAFFIC International. 48pp.

Chew, S.T., T.K.Chew, C.S.Phang, A.L.Luar and M.C.Koh. 1992. Rapid methods for differentiation of genuine and imitation shark fins. Singapore J. Pri. Ind. 20(2): 68-77.

Heist, E. 1997. Dept. of Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Texax A&M University. (Personal communication)

Jeng, S.S. & Hwang, D.F. 1979. Study on the use of small sharks for fish ball production. Journal of the Fisheries Society of Taiwan, Vol 6, No 2.

Kammuri, Y., E. Nagahisa and S. Kamikawa. 1990. Process for producing a shark fin analog. United States Patent Office. pp. 1-6. Cited in Chew, et al, 1992, above.

Koh, Y.L., proprietor, Chip Chiang Co., Singapore. 1997. (Personal communication)

Lam, George, proprietor. 1997. Yau Sang Shark Fins Co. (Personal communication)

Leung, S.F. 1997. Agriculture and Fisheries Department, Hong Kong. (Personal communication)

Liu, K.M. 1997. National Taiwan Ocean University. (Pesonal communication)

Man, A. 1997. YMCA, Hong Kong. Personal communication.

Nair, K.G.R., and P. Madhavan. 1974. Shark fin rays - technology and extraction. Fishery Technology XI(1): 60-63. Cited in Rose, 1996, below.

Ng, S.M. 1988. Secrets of nutritional Chinese cookery. Landmark Books.

Parry-Jones, R. 1996. TRAFFIC Report on shark fisheries and trade in Hong Kong. 57pp.

Rose, D.A. 1996. An overview of world trade in sharks and other cartilaginous fishes. TRAFFIC International.

SEAFDEC. 1993. Fishery Statistical Bulletin for the South China Sea Area, 1991.

SEAFDEC. 1994. Fishery Statistical Bulletin for the South China Sea Area, 1992.

SEAFDEC. 1995. Fishery Statistical Bulletin for the South China Sea Area, 1993.

SEAFDEC. 1997. Fishery Statistical Bulletin for the South China Sea Area, 1994.

The Sunday Times, Singapore. 5 October 1997; p. 10.

Tong, H T, proprietor. 1997. Four Seas Fishball Factory, Hong Kong. Personal Communication.

Woodley, C.M., R.W. Chapman, L.F. Webster and D.S. Carter. 1994. Troms(University: Troms((Norway), p134. (3rd International Marine Biotechnology Conference: Program Abstracts and List of Participants.) (CD-Rom, NISC Disc Report)

Yeong, W.X., C.C. Lam and B.Y. Chew. 1994. The complete book of dried seafood and foodstuffs. Wan Li Book Centre, Hong Kong. In Chinese. (1996 Reprint)

7 PHOTOGRAPHS OF SHARKS AND SHARK PRODUCTS

The following photographs show sharks and shark products for sale in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Photograph 1: Display of shark fin and other choice seafoods in a restaurant in Hong Kong.

Photograph 2: Dish of ray wings cooked in chilli and salted vegetables with garnishings in a Singapore hawker centre

Photograph 3: Plain steamed meat of small sharks, displayed for sale in a Singapore hawker centre.

Photograph 4: Small sharks and rays at Punggol Fish Market, Singapore (Since these photos were taken the wholesale market has been re-located.)

Photograph 5: Assorted sharks sold at Castle Peak Fishing Port, Hong Kong.

Photograph 6: Processed dry pectoral fins displayed in a shop on Wing Lok Street. The air bladders shown between the fins are more expensive than the fins together.

Photograph 7: More processed dry fins of assorted sizes and prices displayed for sale inside a shop in Hong Kong (Prices in HK$/kati)

Photograph 8: Dry shark fin nests.

Photograph 9: Convenience packs of wet shark fin nests displayed for sale in Hong Kong (Prices in HK$/pack)

Photograph 10: Prepared wet shark fin nests displayed as medium and large sizes for sale outside a shop in Hong Kong (Prices in HK$/kati)

Photograph 11: More prepared wet shark fin nests displayed as medium and large sizes for sale outside a shop in Hong Kong (Prices in HK$/kati)

Photograph 12: Prepared wet fin needles displayed for sale at HK$480/kati outside a shop in Hong Kong

Photograph 13: Dry fin cartilage for sale at HK$38/kati

Photograph 14: Dry spinal columns of sharks for sale at HK$68/kati. Dry fin cartilage are displayed beside them for sale at HK$38/kati

8 CHINESE NAMES FOR SHARK FINS

This section has been compiled from "The complete book of dried seafood & foodstuffs" by Yeong Wei Xiong, Lam Cheung Chi, Chew Biu Yeong

HANYU PINYIN OF SHARK FIN

CHINESE NAME OF SHARK FIN

SCIENTIFIC NAME OF SHARK

COMMON NAME OF SHARK

NA WEI TIANJIU CHI

CETORHINUS MAXIMUS

BASKING SHARK

NIUPI TIANJIU CHI

RHINIODON TYPUS

WHALE SHARK

HUANG JIAO CHI

-

-

SHA QING CHI

-

-

BAI QING CHI

CARCHARHINUS PLUMBUS

WHITE SANDBAR SHARK

HAI HU CHI

-

-

GU YI CHI

-

-

SHU GU CHI

-

-

WU YANG CHI

-

BROWN SHARK

LIU QIU CHI

-

-

HEI WEI QING CHI

-

-

CHUN CHI

SPHYRNA ZYGAENA

COMMON HAMMERHEAD SHARK

SHA PO CHI

-

-

SHA GONG CHI

-

-

HU DIE QING CHI

-

LEMON SHARK

YA JIAN CHI

-

-

TIAN SHI CHI

-

ANGEL SHARK

BAI CHAN CHI

-

-

QING LIAN CHI

ISURUS OXYRINCHUS

MAKO SHARK

MI GU CHI

-

-

NIUPI SHA CHI

-

-

MOPAN SHA CHI

-

-

HEI SHA CHI

-

-

ZHU SHA CHI

-

-

YOU CHI

-

DOGFISH

HUA SHA JIN

SCYLIORHINUS CANICULA

LESSER SPOTTED

QIAN GU



DOGFISH

CAO SHA JIN

SCYLIORHINUS STELLARIS

LARGE SPOTTED

QIAN GU



DOGFISH

In addition to the above:

1. Group of fins under the same "family" name:

QUN CHI

RHYNCHOBATUS DJIDDE-NSIS

(GIANT GUITAR FISH in Chinese translation)


RHINOBATUS HYNNICEPHALUS

(SHOVELNOSE RAY in Chinese translation)

HUANG SHA

-

-

QUN CHI




ZHEN ZHU

-

-

QUN CHI




HUANG QUN

-

-

CHI




MIAN QUN CHI

-

-

RUAN SHA

-

-

QUN CHI




2. Fins from the same shark, but called different names by Hong Kong dealers:

RUAN SHA CHI

-

-

DA WANG CHI

-

-

(alternate name)




SHAN CHI

-

-

ER CHI

-

-

(alternate name)




Footnotes

(a) These two fins bear the family name only, and refer to fins from different sharks.

(b) Fins from different sharks called under same family name, but also bear specific names.

The above Chinese names, scientific names and common names of sharks are reproduced from the book. The Hanyu Pinyin names are provided by Mr. Lim Chee Hong for the convenience of non-Chinese readers.

9 LIST OF PHOTOGRAPHS OF SHARK FINS

The names in this section were given by Mr Lam

PHOTO NO.

CHINESE NAME OF SHARKSFTN

HANYU PINYTN SHARKSFIN NAME

COMMON NAME OF SHARK

REMARKS

1

HUANG JIAO CHI

-

1P, 1C, processed fins

2

HUANG JIAO CHI

-

1P, 1C

3

SHAN CM

-

2P

4

YOU CHI

-

4P

5

SHA GONG CHI

-

2P, 1C

6

ZHEN ZHU QUN CHI

-

2D

7

HU DIE QING CHI

LEMON SHARK

2P, 1D

8

RUAN SHA CHI

-

2P

9

HEI WEI QING CHI

BLACK TIP SHARK

2P, 1D

10

SHU GU CHI

PINK SHARK

2P, 1D

11

YA JIAN CHI

BLUE SHARK

2P, 1D, 1C, full set

12

CHUN GOU CHI

COMMON HAMMERHEAD

2P, 1D, 1C, full set

13

WU YANG CHI

BROWN SHARK

2P, 1D, 1C, full set

14

TIANJIU CHI

BASKING SHARK

1D, 1C

15

BAI QING CHI

WHITE SANDBAR SHARK

2P, 1D, 1C, full set

16

BAI CHAN CHI

-

4P

17

HU YI CHI

GREAT HAMMERHEAD SHARK

2P, 1C

18

HAI HU CHI

TIGER SHARK

2P

19

QING HUA CHI

THRESHER SHARK

1D

20

BAI QING CHI

WHITE SANDBAR SHARK

2P, 1D

21

LIU QIU CHI

YELLOW TIP BROWN SHARK

2P, 1D, 1C, full set

22

QING LIAN CHI

MAKO SHARK

2P, 1D, 1C, full set

23

ZHU SHA CHI

BAMBOO SHARK

2P

24

YING KE QING LIAN CHI

-

2P

25

MI GU CHI

FOX SHARK

1P

26

LIU QIU CHI

YELLOW TIP BROWN SHARK

1C, with caudal skin samples

27

NTU PI SHA CHI

BULL SHARK

1P

28

CAO SHA JINQIAN GU

-

2P, 1D

29

HUA SHA JINQIAN GU

-

2P

30

TIAN SHI CHI

ANGEL SHARK

1C

31

CHUN CHI

A SPECIE OF HAMMERHEAD SHARK

2P, 1D

32

MOP AN SHA

-

4P

33

SHA PO CHI

NURSE SHARK

2P, 1D

34

YOU CHI

DOG FISH

2P, 1C

35

BEI OU TIAN JIU CHI

BASKING SHARK

1D, 1C

36

SHA GONG CHI

DOG FISH

2P, 1D

37*

NIU PI TIAN JIU CHI

WHALE SHARK

1D, processed fin

* Mr Lam Cheung Chi on the left.

Photograph 1

Photograph 2

Photograph 3

Photograph 4

Photograph 5

Photograph 6

Photograph 7

Photograph 8

Photograph 9

Photograph 10

Photograph 11

Photograph 12

Photograph 13

Photograph 14

Photograph 15

Photograph 16

Photograph 17

Photograph 18

Photograph 19

Photograph 20

Photograph 21

Photograph 22

Photograph 23

Photograph 24

Photograph 25

Photograph 26

Photograph 27

Photograph 28

Photograph 29

Photograph 30

Photograph 31

Photograph 32

Photograph 33

Photograph 34

Photograph 35

Photograph 36

Photograph 37


[*] 1 kati=0.6 kg
[*]nanometres

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