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- 21 month(s) ago
Traders have been flocking to the central province of Binh Dinh to harvest shark fins, which sell at high prices because of their supposed health benefits.
Shark finning involves cutting of the fins and throwing the fish back into the water to die, either of suffocation or by being eaten by other animals because they are unable to move properly.
Hoai Huong Commune, Hoai Nhon District, is considered the centre for shark fin business. Both Hoai Huong, and another local commune, Tam Quang Bac, have a large number of boats in operation which are involved in shark fin harvesting.
Currently there are no regulations which ban the practice in Vietnam, and it continues to go largely unmonitored.
The cartilage from the fins is shredded into fibers to make expensive dishes, mainly soups, which are seen in many cultures to be not only luxury dishes, but cures for various ailments.
Mrs. Le Thi Don’s family, of Hoai Huong Commune, is one of the biggest traders of shark fin in the central region, and has been in the business for 30 years. She currently buys and sells dozens of kilogrammes of the raw product per month. Don said, “We used to be farmers, but once we discovered the potential to make money in selling shark fin, we came to Danang in order to get in on the trade. I have customers all over - in Quang Ngai, Phu Yen, and throughout the southwest."
Most of her business, however, is for export to China, via Ho Chi Minh City. The peak times for buying and selling are between the second and fifth month of the lunar calendar.
Le Van Tam, who runs a shark fin processing operation in Hoai Huong Commune, said, “We keep in close contact with the fishermen, and send people to buy fins directly from them. But now that many of them have switched to catching tuna, prices have gone up."
According to Tam, every three kilogrammes of fresh shark fin can be processed into one kilogramme of dry fin. It takes 5 to 6 kilogrammes to make one kilogramme of the final processed product.
According to traders, the prices vary depending on the type of shark, with some types running up to tens of millions of VND. Those with three fins are more valuable than those with four.
No end in sight
According to Mrs Dinh, owner of a shark fin trading agent in Hoai Nhon District, traders often wait at ports, or even pay fishermen in advance because of the growing scarcity.
Tran Van Thuan, a shark fin dealer, said that there are several large wholesalers based out of Ho Chi Minh City that situate agents in key areas, such as Tam Quan Bac and Quy Nhon.
The head of the provincial Board of Fisheries Resources Exploitation and Protection, Mai Kim Thi, commented on the situation: "Since there are no regulations on the books concerning the harvesting or trade of shark fins, these activities continue."
The cartilage from the shark fins is shredded into fibers to make expensive dishes
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