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One Small Chinese Fish Factory Vs. An NBA Giant And A School Of Sharks

China's basketball legend Yao Ming wants to save the sharks. Wang Haifeng wants to save 500 jobs. Who are you rooting for? Have you ever tried shark fin soup?

Save the shark fin industry!
Save the shark fin industry!
Harold Thibault

PUQI – If Wang Haifeng could meet Chinese basketball star Yao Ming, he would try to convince him that he’s wrong about his support for protecting sharks. And he isn’t the only one to criticize the former NBA player’s work against the consumption of shark fins.

In the village of Puqi, 500 kilometers south of Shanghai, the fish factory employs more than 500 people. “This has had an impact on our business,” says Wang, head of Haideli Shark Products, which produces 1,000 tons of shark meat each year. “Young people who aren’t familiar with these dishes are talked out of eating them, sometimes for good.”

In the factory, shark blood is rinsed off with a hose. Shark skins are flattened out on the floor, giving off a strong fish smell. Baskets are piled high with blue shark heads. Outside, thousands of fins are drying out in the sun, on wire mesh resting on trestles.

Li Weijie, who runs a neighboring factory, says Puqi started specializing in shark meat well before the 1949 Chinese revolution. When he was young the techniques were much simpler, “just a knife and a bag of salt.”

“Business is no longer good,” says Li. Both men blame Yao Ming’s TV ads. A first ad campaign was launched in 2009, another last year. In them the athlete says: “When the buying stops, the massacre will stop too.”

“Society is turning against us; that because of all these articles in the press,” says Wang. “They’re trying to make us believe that all sharks are protected, which is not true!” Only three types of sharks are on the list of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES): the whale shark, the basking shark and the great white shark. Countries like Japan, Indonesia and China are opposed to adding other species to the list.

A frozen hammerhead shark fetus

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), out of the 270 species surveyed, 55% are endangered or critically endangered by over fishing. Hammerhead sharks “are globally endangered species.” In March 2010, they came close to being on the CITES blacklist. With 75 votes for and 45 against, the hammerhead shark didn’t reach the two-thirds majority required for a ban on trade.

In Puqi, Wang proudly shows a bag containing three 20-centimeter hammerhead shark fetuses that have been sitting in the factory’s freezer since they were taken out from their mother. Li confirms that the species is highly regarded for its taste.

Puqi’s entrepreneurs feel abandoned by Chinese authorities, who they say are driven by populism rather than by the environment. “Our industry is small and Yao Ming is highly respected, so the government doesn’t support us. It’s frustrating,” says Wang.

These factories deny buying fins that fishermen cut at sea before discarding the dying shark in the water, a practice known as “shark finning,” that is condemned by environmental organizations. Both factory owners show the numerous carcasses on the floor as proof and go as far as denying that shark finning even exists. “It’s impossible, the other parts of the shark are worth a lot!” says Li. Wang prides himself in using almost every part of the animal: the stomach is fried, the spinal chord is turned into calcium powder, the meat is consumed locally or salted and exported to Sri Lanka and the teeth are made into pendants.

But fins are the most prized cuts. They only represent 4% of the shark’s body but at least 30% of Li’s factory’s revenue. The limited availability justifies the exorbitant prices on restaurant menus. For 5 kilograms of raw fin, the factory will only produce 500 grams of eatable meat. One kilo of processed blue shark fin costs 1000 Yuan ($160).

Neither Li nor Wang believe the shark population is declining. “Resources will keep increasing,” says Wang. “That’s what Yao Ming doesn’t understand. Quantities at sea have not shrunk. There are enough sharks.”

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

A Profound And Simple Reason That Negotiations Are Not An Option For Ukraine

The escalation of war in the Middle East and the stagnation of the Ukrainian counteroffensive have left many leaders in the West, who once supported Ukraine unequivocally, to look toward ceasefire talks with Russia. For Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, Piotr Andrusieczko argues that Ukraine simply cannot afford this.

Photo of Ukrainian soldiers in winter gear, marching behind a tank in a snowy landscape

Ukrainian soldiers ploughing through the snow on the frontlines

Volodymyr Zelensky's official Facebook account
Piotr Andrusieczko


KYIVUkraine is fighting for its very existence, and the war will not end soon. What should be done in the face of this reality? How can Kyiv regain its advantage on the front lines?

It's hard to deny that pessimism has been spreading among supporters of the Ukrainian cause, with some even predicting ultimate defeat for Kyiv. It's difficult to agree with this, considering how this war began and what was at stake. Yes, Ukraine has not won yet, but Ukrainians have no choice for now but to continue fighting.

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These assessments are the result of statements by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, and an interview with him in the British weekly The Economist, where the General analyzes the causes of failures on the front, notes the transition of the war to the positional phase, and, critically, evaluates the prospects and possibilities of breaking the deadlock.

Earlier, an article appeared in the American weekly TIME analyzing the challenges facing President Volodymyr Zelensky. His responses indicate that he is disappointed with the attitude of Western partners, and at the same time remains so determined that, somewhat lying to himself, he unequivocally believes in victory.

Combined, these two publications sparked discussions about the future course of the conflict and whether Ukraine can win at all.

Some people outright predict that what has been known from the beginning will happen: Russia will ultimately win, and Ukraine has already failed.

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