Category Archives: Sharks

6-Foot Black-Tip Reef Shark Caught by Handline in Victoria Harbour – This Day in 1932

On the 9th of October 1932: a 6 foot 6 inch, 186 lbs black-tip reef shark (Carcharinus melanopterus) was caught by fishermen off th Kowloon Docks (between present day Hung Hom and the Laguna Verde residential blocks). It was caught on a hand line made of hemp with a half-pound snapper as bait on a large iron hook. The fisherman was definitely trying to catch a shark and had a large bait and strong tackle on purpose. The sea was choppy, a fresh N.E. wind was blowing and few small fish were about. The previous week a number of shark were about off Kowloon Docks and on 25th September […] at least 50 snapper were lost through sharks taking them before they had been pulled up to the surface. This particular fish was played 20 minutes, pulled in to within 2 feet of the surface and then harpooned. It was not pulled on board but was lashed to the side of the sam pan. Market value about $7.00 – roughly equal to HKD 2,280  today. Stunning to think that shark was abundant enough locally to cost that little: a whole 6-foot, 84.3 kg black-tip reef shark for only HKD 2,280! Compare this with a recently quoted wholesale price for 1 kg of shark’s fin in Guangzhou (roughly  comparable to the shark discussed here) of USD 960 or HKD 7,480! Why the difference? Rarity. Sharks have become so rare, that the prices are soaring and they face more and more risk of extinction from over fishing.

Decomposing 5m Whale Shark Found Off Cheung Chau With Nylon Rope Around Its Tail

The decomposing body of a whale shark, a rare species in local waters, was found off the coast of Cheung Chau. The five-metre creature was spotted about 50 metres off the island by Cheung Chau resident Dan Carew. He reported the sighting to the police shortly before 7pm yesterday (31st August 2015).

Image: Dan Carew (via SCMP)

The marine police later located the decomposing body near a coastal area off Cheung Chau Peak Road West. Carew told the media he saw the shark floating off the sea at sunset and immediately left his home to check it. It was later washed closer to the coast. Carew said there was a nylon rope around its tail. After studying the pictures and a video provided by Carew, the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation said it was a whale shark, characterised by its square head and pectoral fins.

Image via SCMP

A spokeswoman said the foundation could not tell how it died and would try to learn more from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. He said the largest known extant fish species was rare in local waters, although there had been occasional sightings.

Skin, fat and muscle samples were collected but a necropsy could not be made because of the poor condition of the carcass and the environmental restrictions on- site. AFCD has arranged carcass disposal.

On July 20, a five-metre whale shark was spotted in the sea off Tung Lung Chau in Sai Kung by a local fisherman. It later disappeared. In July 2012, a whale shark was spotted just meters off a popular beach on Lamma.

Footage by Dan Carew published though SCMP TV can be seen here.

Source: SCMP, Apple Daily, AFCD

Whale Shark Spotted off Sai Kung

On Monday morning (20/7/15) at around 9am, a fisherman was out on his 20-foot-long boat off the shores of Tung Lung Chau Island, south of Sai Kung, when he spotted what he thought to be a shark.

It was a gentle whale shark, the largest fish in the ocean which feeds on plankton with the occasional small squid or fish.

Once the fisherman realised that the animal posed him no harm, he observed it and took photos for the next half hour before it swam away, reports Headline News.

Whale sharks can reach up to about 13 metres in length and 21 tons in weight.

The last time a whale shark was sighted in Hong Kong was in 2012.

The president of the Ichthyological Society of Hong Kong believes that the trawling ban has led to healthier fish populations. He predicts that in the future, we’ll be seeing even more sharks in Hong Kong.

July 5th 1930: Large Shark Caught Off Tai Po

On this day 85 years (1930) the Hong Kong Telegraph reported the capture of a large shark off Tai Po:

The Hong Kong Telegraph 5th July 1930 (p.20)
The Hong Kong Telegraph 5th July 1930 (p.20)

The naturalist G.A.C Herklots, identified it as Eulamia melanopterus (now Carcharinus melanopterus) – the black-tipped reef shark and reported it to be 7 feet (2.1 m) in length. He published the image of the shark featured in this blog post in the Hong Kong Naturalist.

The other shark incident mentioned in the Telegraph involved a fisherman being bitten by a shark on June 10th of 1930. The South China Morning Post (SCMP, June 10th 1930) reported:

A fisherman called Ho Sang was admitted into the Kwohg Wah
Hospital at Yaumati [Yau Ma Tei] on June 8th with severe injuries to his right arm. His uncle related the following incident. When fishing in their boat off Pak Sha O, near Tai Po, the younger man, Ho Sang, hooked a shark. He succeeded in raising it to the surface and was hauling it into the boat when the fish seized his right arm injuring it severely. No details are given as to the size of the shark or what happened to it after its attack on the fisherman.

 

Consupmtion of Shark’s Fin in Hong Kong Dropping

According to a new survey by the Social Sciences Research Centre of the University of Hong Kong, in the past five years, close tp 70% of residents have reduced or stopped eating shark’s fin soup. The 1,000 people surveyed found that 92% of respondants found it acceptable to remove shark fin soup from a wedding banquet menu, versus 80% in 2009.

  • use of shark’s fin at wedding banquets fell from 91% in 2009 to 72% in 2014
  • consumption of shark’s fin during Chinese New Year went from 38% in 2009 to 14% in 2014.
  • many said they are willing to try alternatives
  • less than 1% saw shark fin as irreplaceable at banquets
  • 24% of respondents said they did not eat shark fin at all in 2014 compared with 15% in 2009
  • 44% had not eaten it at a restaurant for a year against 17.5% earlier
  • Environmental concern was cited as the main reason why people shunned shark’s fin

Stanley Shea Kwok-ho program coordinator at Bloom Marine (the organisation funnding the survey) said people are more aware of the environmental impact of eating shark fin, and many hotels, restaurants and catering firms have helped in the fight for conservation by striking it off their menus. And many are offering alternatives to shark fin soup.

Imogen Zethoven, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts Global Shark Conservation Campaign, said she is delighted to see local support for protecting sharks growing when “we know about 100 million sharks are killed each year in commercial fisheries.”

While praising the government for taking a lead in banning shark fin and bluefin tuna from official banquets in 2013, Shea said it should also discourage the consumption of all products involving endangered species.

Related to that, 84% of respondents said the government could do more to protect sharks through education and 69% that sustainable seafood should be promoted.

Hong Kong still handles about 50% of the global trade in shark fins.

(Source: HK Standard, April 17, 2015)

Illegal Tourism & Poaching of Endangered Species in the Paracel Islands

Photographs posted online recently show Chinese tourists posing with endangered species off the Paracel Islands, a disputed area of the South China Sea. Tourists were posing with red coral, thresher sharks and other fish according to the China News Service . All three thresher shark species have been recently listed as vulnerable to extinction by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

The photos were widely condemned by internet users on the mainland, and raised concerns among conservationists.

The Crescent Group of the Paracel Islands (Image: WikiCommons)
The Crescent Group of the Paracel Islands (Image: WikiCommons)

The authorities have since pledged to crack down on “illegal tourist activity”. Feng Wenhai, the deputy mayor of Sansha said that a task force of police, national security agencies and the coastguard would target illegal tourism boats operating in the area. Other officials and fishermen would apparently also carry out patrols to search for such boats according to Feng.

A tour operator in Hainan province who arranges trips to the Paracel Islands told the South China Morning Post that tourists who wanted to go fishing often chartered illegal boats costing much more than authorised cruises. “They need to find their own charter vessels and gather enough people as the cost is quite high, normally tens of thousands of yuan,” he said.

Given recent Japanese accusation of red coral poaching in disputed waters against China’s government-subsidized fishing fleet and the high-profile arrest and conviction of Chinese fisherman poaching close to 500 endangered sea turtles in Philippine waters, the statement by Feng Wenhai has almost no credibility. How after all can the government control illegal fishing and poaching by tourists when it can’t even stop its own government-funded fishing fleet from raping the sea and ignoring all rules?

In 2012, amid intensifying territorial disputes with Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea, China established the city of Sansha to administer the disputed Paracels – known as Xisha in Chinese – and the disputed Spratly Islands and the Macclesfield Bank in the South China Sea. That was two years after the Chinese authorities announced plans to develop the tourism industry in the Paracels.

Map showing the poisition of the Paracels Islands in the South China Sea (Image: WikiCommons)
Map showing the position of the Paracels Islands in the South China Sea (Image: WikiCommons)

The first tourist cruises in 2013 were run by state-owned operators aboard the “Coconut Princess” and set sail from Sanya , the capital of Hainan Island. The four-day, three-night cruises to three of the islets cost from 4,000 yuan (HK$5,000) to 10,000 yuan. However, they are only open to mainland Chinese – foreigners, tourists from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan and those with criminal records are not allowed.

Sai Kung Sharks Story a Bit Fishy

As reported by Coconuts Hong Kong (November 12, 2014) in blurb headlined “Pair of meter-long sharks spotted in Sai Kung” , HK resident Adri Blumberg spotted what seemed to be a shark in Sheung Sze Wan, Sai Kung on the morning of the 12th November:
“two sharks (or shark-like creatures) have been seen in shallow waters near a beach over the last few days. The sharks, thought to be of the same species, are reported to be about a meter long with blue dorsal fins and black and white stripes.”

Enthusiastic as all tabloids are for a attention-grabbing headline, but also trying to appear as socially responsible, Coconuts goes on to say: “It’s actually a great sign that sharks are back in Hong Kong waters. If there are sharks, there are fish. And if there are fish, it means our seas are doing okay!
Scientists estimate that 100 million sharks are killed by humans every year, and Hong Kong is the world’s biggest trade hub for shark’s fin. If anyone should be scared – it’s the sharks!”

Here is the thing: it’s not sharks, it’s most likely mackerel…
How can this be?
Have a close (zoom in) look at Adri Blumberg’s pictures.

IMG_7852.JPG
Image: Adri Blumberg (Facebook)

Notice the shiny bluish color on the caudal (tail fin). Sharks have sandpaper like skin made up of tiny denticles (horns) that don’t normally shine, let alone iridescent blue. Bony fish with scales however have shiny skin often as in the case of coral reef fish in bright colors.

IMG_7853.JPG
Image: Adri Blumberg (Facebook)

The other thing is the strongly curved dorsal fin that shows hints of Rays and the sickle-shaped upper lobe of the caudal fin. Both are not seen in sharks or only rarely at least.

IMG_7854.JPG
Image: Adri Blumberg (Facebook)

And lastly there a close look shows dark stripes faintly recognisable on the back in front of the dorsal fin. Faint dark stripes point towards a tiger shark, but tigers are very bulky fish and have chunky straight dorsal and caudal fins.

The pictures look a lot like a fish from the Scombridae family that includes mackerel, though. One species recorded from HK is Narrowed-barred Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson), which commonly grows to 1.2m. I will not claim authority as an ichthyologist (fish biologist) but i am quite sure this is not a shark and very likely a mackerel or close relative.

What’s that? You don’t believe mackerel can be big enough to confuse with sharks? Check out this angling sites photos of the Chinese seerfish (Scomberomorus sinensis), a species of mackerel known from China, Japan and Korea.

Here are a few bad (but rights-free) Spanish Mackerel pics cropped to comparable proportions. What do you think?

 

1024px-Narrow-barred_Spanish_Mackerel-ed King_Mackerel-ed Spanish_Mackerel-ed