Reporter’s Notebook: Tasteless Dried Shark Fin For Sale

whale shark, dead sharks, sharks in truck, dubai, shark fins for soupTafline in Dubai shark market: “Sharks piled up in the back of a truck along with a spade and rebar.”

The locals are proud to pose with their dead sharks, rays, and barracudas. Many of them will even open the shark’s mouth for dramatic effect. “Picture, picture,” they said repeatedly as Jacques Van Wyk, a South African paramedic who works for a Dubai-based hotel group, led me through a pungent fish souq in Dubai in search of finned sharks. Along with a rusty spade and rebar, we found a few sharks carelessly strewn in the back of a transport truck.

jacques van wyk, baby shark for saleOne of them may be a juvenile whale shark – the gentle giants of the sea. But (I was privately relieved) we did not witness any finning today. That doesn’t mean it has stopped. Just a few days ago, Jacques witnessed 400 kilograms of fins being driven away.

Known at work as the “treehugger,” Jacques (left) first became aware of shark finning when a friend of his took him to a market four and a half years ago. They found a truck full of sharks, which they then followed back to the market where they were being sold. He has been coming to the markets regularly ever since.

If this sounds like a clandestine endeavor, that would be misleading. The salespeople fin sharks with as much indifference as nearby merchants sell their vegetables. They line the sharks up on a short wall at the far end of the market, slice off their fins, and pile them in a truck.

According to Van Wyk, most of the fish here come from Oman. “With so much phytoplankton, those waters are literally teeming with marine life.” But it is not legal to fin in Oman so they are brought to Dubai where they are processed and then shipped off.”

shark meat for sale shark fins for soupA curious fresh seafood salesman who spoke excellent English, Vijay confirmed that the cheaper fish comes from Oman, but the more expensive fish are caught on lines outside of Dubai.

He also explained that dried shark fins are too dry to eat, that they are only used for their taste.

Shark meat costs as little as $3 for two pounds, while a baby shark fetches approximately $40.

“Shark fin soup is on the menu of many high-profile functions,” Jacques said, “until that ends, the fishermen will continue to fish them.”

That hasn’t stopped Jacques from dreaming about how to make a difference.

In addition to potentially teaming up with Ernst Van Der Poll at Tawasul to screen the film Shark Water at the Jumeirah Beach Dive Center, he is working on plans to help his employer incorporate more environmental programs into their Corporate Social Responsibility portfolio.

dried shark, shark fin soup

Also, he and his girlfriend have plans to walk from Abu Dhabi to South Africa in the next couple of years in order to generate overall environmental awareness.

shark for sale shark fins for soup

Having grown up in the bush in South Africa, Jacques is passionate about nature. “Sometimes I get down in the dumps,” he told me after we finally left the market to get fresh air and process what we had seen.

“But it’s good, because that is what gives me the motivation to go on.”

More on shark finning in the UAE:
Working with Fishermen to Tackle Shark Finning
Despite Ban, UAE Is A Market Hub for Shark Finning
UAE Divers Organization: Stop Buying Shark Fins and Shark Fin Soup

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9 thoughts on “Reporter’s Notebook: Tasteless Dried Shark Fin For Sale”

  1. David says:

    Definitely not a whale shark!

  2. Thanks David. Someone else suggested maybe a Bowhead? It’s too difficult to say b/c so much of the body is covered by other sharks; also, there have also been a lot of whale shark sightings here recently…

  3. David says:

    Hi, I am pretty sure that’s not a whale shark. Spots and body not quite right… I think it is a guitarfish (R. djiddensis). They are frequently brought in to the Dubai fish market from Oman.

  4. Nicole says:

    Things like this just make you wanna cry, no? 🙁
    Humans are the most stupid living beings on this planet 🙁
    Need to go to the fish market again one of these days.
    Haven’t seen this on the market in our area, but that doesn’t mean it ain’t going on 🙁

  5. Jill Barber says:

    We took our family on a swim with whale sharks tour when we visited Cancun last summer. We not only had the time of our lives, but we learned so much about the importance to protect these potentially endangered creatures. It is refreshing to know that there are others out there that are doing the right thing to make sure these beautiful fish have a voice.

    Jill B.

  6. Tafline – you are a green commando!

  7. Haroun says:

    The UAE is often willing to put their money where its mouth is. I think that it is time for them to take a stand against the fishing and finning of endangered and protected marine species.

    1. I agree completely Haroun, and I believe that they will. And they need our help! The end of demand for such species has to come from the bottom, the top, and every place in between.

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