Last month, a Hong Kong-based conservation group blew the lid off the world's largest slaughterhouse for endangered whale sharks, whose livers contain oil commonly used in health supplements. The factory, located in southern China, processes blue sharks and basking sharks, according to the owner, who was quoted in undercover footage taken by Wildlife Risk.
Now, a fisheries official from the area is refuting the allegations, despite a wealth of evidence. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he said that endangered species are not processed at the factory.
"There are no shark-hunting activities in Wenzhou and all sharks are bought from other coastal cities and from abroad. The long-existing local shark processing business exploits the fishing resources scientifically in accordance with the Law on Protection of Wildlife," the official told the Global Times.
But as The Dodo reported last month, the factory owner admitted to processing endangered species:
In WildLifeRisk's undercover footage, the factory owner -- identified only as Li -- said the plant also processes blue sharks and basking sharks, producing nearly 220 tons of shark oil between the three species each year. Investigators also learned that Li exports whale shark skins and dried fins to European countries such as Italy and France, where they are used in Chinese restaurants. In one segment of the video, Li says he has to "smuggle" the skins out of China, as exports of the creatures are monitored by authorities.
Whale sharks, the largest fish species in the world, are often targeted by commercial fishers. In case you're not familiar with these gargantuas, here's a video of a clever whale shark stealing fish from a net in Indonesia: