WPY 2012

Photograph Details

Commended 2012

World in Our Hands

Paul Hilton, UK/Australia

The end of sharks

Workers at Dong Gang Fish Market in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, routinely process thousands of frozen shark fins a day to service the growing international demand for shark-fin soup. Once a delicacy, the dish is increasingly popular with China’s growing middle class. The statistics are grim: up to 100 million sharks are killed each year, 73 million for their fins to service this demand, taking one in three shark species to the brink of extinction. Since 1972, in the northwest Atlantic, the blacktip shark population has fallen by up to 93 per cent, the tiger shark by 97 per cent and the bull shark, dusky shark and smooth hammerhead populations by 99 per cent or more. Many millions of sharks are taken solely for their fins and get thrown back into the ocean, where it takes hours for them to die. Says Paul, ‘It was sobering to think how many sharks had been killed to produce this pile of fins for a soup that isn’t even healthy’ (the fins contain high levels of methylmercury). Another sombre thought: in the time that it has taken to read this caption, around 50 sharks will have been slaughtered worldwide.

Technical specification

Canon EOS 5D Mark II + 16-35mm f2.8 lens; 125 sec at f4.5; ISO 1600.


Donggang Fish Market, Kaohsiung, Taiwan: latitude 23.0109, longitude 120.666 Donggang Fish Market, Kaohsiung, Taiwan: latitude 23.0109, longitude 120.666

Donggang Fish Market, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

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Paul Hilton, UK/Australia

Paul is a Hong Kong-based photojournalist, who focuses on global environmental and conservation issues, helping to investigate and expose conservation priorities. Widely published in leading international media, he is a fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers and has received numerous awards, including a World Press Photo award for his work on shark fins.

  • Sea of death