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3 SHARK UTILIZATION IN CHINA


3.1 Catch practices

China has long history of fishing shark, which historical records date back several hundred years. Shark fishing methods vary between regions and targeted species. Fishing operations can be divided into longline, "brother" angling, set gillnet, drift net and trawling. China has the world’s largest fishing fleet but very few vessels are being used for fishing shark. It is estimated that currently there are not more than 50 vessels with engine power of between 100 and 500hp equipped specially for fishing shark.

In southwest China, longline and "brother" angling are traditionally employed for fishing shark. These two operations once dominated the shark fishing industry in this region, with over 300 fishing vessels. However, only a few places retain these fishing operations and fishing vessels have been reduced to less than one sixth of this number because of the high technological inputs required for shark fishing and comparatively low profitability.

The “brother” angling method is quite complex. It does not need bait and depends on massive fishhooks attached to lines vertical to the main longline, which hook the shark swimming close to them. This operation particularly targets Rhinobatidae and demersal sharks and is associated with water currents. Generally speaking, if the current is mild, the line should be placed vertically to it and if it is strong the line should be placed at an angle of 60-70o. Production from brother angling is not stable but generally there are better harvests with mild currents.

Longline is relatively simple. The line usually stretches for 400meters with 20 fishhooks attached to it at intervals. Bait used includes pelagic fish and conger eel. Fishing vessels usually carry more than 100 lines and release them according to the situation on the fishing grounds and resources. Autohaulers are generally used when harvesting the sharks. This kind of operation particularly targets sharks like C. gangeticus, C. microphthalmus, C. menisorrah, C. melanopterus, C. sorrah, Carcharodon carcharias and S. lewini. A fishing vessel can usually harvest 20 to 50 tonnes of shark annually with this more productive fishing method. There are two categories of longline fisheries for shark in China. One specifically targets shark and 70-80% of its catch will be shark. The other is shark-cum-fish longline and shark only account for 10-20% of the catch.

The set gillnet and drift net are also used for catching sharks but they are seldom used for targeted shark fishing. Sharks are a bycatch of their operations. The species caught by these gear types are S. lewini, Hypoprion macloti, Carcharias latistomus, Carcharias pleurotaenia, Carcharhinus menisorrah and Carcharhinus sorrah. Where shark are abundant they comprise perhaps 30% of the total catch but in waters with fewer sharks the proportion is very small.

Trawlers do not target shark but capture them as a bycatch. These are mainly C. sorrah, C. menisorrah, Scoliodon spp, Sphyrnidae, Chiloscyllium spp and occasionally big Rhincodon typus and Cetorhinus maximus. It is estimated that shark caught as a bycatch of trawling amounts to 70-80% of total shark landings.

3.2 The utilization and consumption of Chinese shark

China has a very long history of utilization and consumption of shark. In ancient China shark was used as a medicine and a nourishing food. In an ancient book named “Food Medical treatment” the nature of shark meat is described as sweet, salty and smooth and able to help the proper function of the five internal organs. Another antique treatise, “Key Points of Medica”, states that shark meat can help people to alleviate swelling and stasis in their bodies and that sharkskin is sweet, salty and smooth and non-poisonous. In “Food list of Daily Life” it says that sharkskin can relieve all kinds of poison arising from fish, kill parasites and help recover from weakness. In “The addition of the Outline of Chinese Materia Medica” it says that sharkskin burnt to ashes can treat poisoning from eating fish; shark fin is sweet and can help build up one’s health; shark fat is sweet, salty and smooth and is very helpful in nourishing lungs and heart and shark bile can be used to cure throat problems.

Shark meat contains a lot of proteins, unsaturated fatty acids and many kinds of minerals. In China shark meat can be cooked in different ways such as fried, soup and fish balls. Shark fin, lip and cartilage can be dried and become valuable dishes at superior banquets. Shark liver is famous as a “bank of natural A and D vitamins” and is used to extract liver oil. Sharkskin is as rough as sandpaper and is used for producing leather. Shark cartilage-derived products such as gel and chondroitin are used as anti-cancer drugs.

In the area of Fujian and Zhejiang Provinces, sharkskin soup is a famous and expensive dish. It is estimated that over half of the sharks landed in China are processed into fillets and fish balls. Most of the products are for local consumption. Shark liver contains a lot of fat and the fat contains a lot of vitamin A, vitamin D, DHA, EPA and dogfish alkene. They are all of high value and importance in medicine and promoting health. There are factories in Fujian province engaged in extracting fish liver oil and manufacturing it into drugs and health food products. Shark cartilage contains a sticky sugar (Mucopolysaccharide), sulphuric acid cartilage and sulphuric acid cutin, which are very important for improving health and for anti-cancer treatments.

In China the major processed products are shark fin, dried sharkskin, extruded sharkskin, shark leather, shark fillet, shark meatballs, dried shark meat floss, shark cartilage powder, shark cartilage chondroitin, shark liver oil, vitamin A and D capsules and dogfish alkene. Information on some of these products is listed in Table 3

Table 3 Price list of shark and shark products in China

Name

Form/size

Unit

Lowest price

Highest price

Market places

whole shark

fresh, over 30 kg

Yuan/kg

10

50

Processing plant

whole shark

fresh, under 30 kg

Yuan/kg

5

20

Processing plant

Chiloscyllium colax

Live, about 1kg

Yuan/kg

20

50

Hotels and restaurants

dried shark fin

dried, bone-off

Yuan/kg

400

5000

Hotels and restaurants

dried shark skin

dried, whole

Yuan/kg

100

200

Restaurants and homes

shark meat

frozen, fillet

Yuan/kg

20

70

Restaurants and homes

shark meat ball

fresh, frozen

Yuan/kg

15

30

Restaurants and homes

dried cartilage

dried

Yuan/kg

30

200

Pharmacies and home

frozen cartilage

frozen

Yuan/kg

20

40

Pharmacies

shark liver

fresh, salted

Yuan/kg

0.6

1

Processing plant

shark liver oil

barrel

Yuan/ton

5000

7000

For producing drugs

shark liver oil

capsule

Yuan/100 capsules

20

50

Pharmacies

shark cartilage powder

capsule

Yuan/100 capsules

50

400

Pharmacies

Conversion rate: US$ 1 = 8.28 RMB Yuan

The group visited three shark processing plants in Guangdong province. These plants are Shude Hongda Marine Products Corp. Ltd, Jiangmen Rongxing Marine Foodstuff Corp. Ltd and Zhongshan Wing Fund Shark's Fin. The processing flow is shown in Figure 1

Figure 1 Shark processing flowchart

3.3 The impact of Chinese consumption of shark on the shark resources of China

It is estimated that China produces between 10 and 15 000 tonnes of shark annually and almost all of it is consumed at home. The survey found that Chinese shark production has been quite stable for decades. There is no clear evidence of fluctuations in the shark resources of Chinese territory waters. It worth noting that China has a very small shark-targeting fleet and most of its shark production is from bycatch. With China adopting new management methods, in particular with the government setting zero growth for fishing production in 1999 in its territorial waters, bycatch of sharks will be reduced in the future. In fact the shark fishing industry appears to be shrinking because of high production costs and limitation by the fishing technology.

According to recorded data, world shark catches are around 700 000 tonnes per annum. China’s catch is only a small proportion of this. Also, shark products, particularly shark fin, are very expensive. This will limit the consumption of shark products in view of the living standards in China. It is estimated that consumption of shark fin in China is only one fifteenth to one tenth of the world’s shark fin consumption. Therefore, the national consumption and utilization of shark are unlikely to have a great impact on the shark resources of China or the world.


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