The end of sharks

Paul Hilton's Image

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.

Behind the lens

Paul Hilton

Paul Hilton


Paul is a photojournalist and wildlife trade consultant who focuses on global environmental and conservation issues. He endeavours to bring about urgent change in how we treat our surroundings. Widely published in leading international media, he is a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers and has received many awards for his conservation photography.

Image details

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • 16-35mm f2.8 lens
  • 125 sec at f4.5
  • Donggang Fish Market, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Copyright in WPY competition photographs remains the property of the respective photographers. You may not copy, share, reproduce or republish the photographs except as expressly permitted by copyright law. For media image usage enquiries, please contact us.

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