After months of filming sharks in the wild, seeing them line the floors of a Taiwanese fish market was quite a shock. Here they’re not intelligent charismatic animals – they’re just ‘meat’.
In 10 days at the market we saw 18 different species of shark. Some boats brought in just the odd shark accidentally caught amongst other fish, others seemed to be specifically targeting them. One crew unloaded over 80 sharks, all caught in just a week at sea. And this was the low season for shark fishing. Typhoons loomed throughout our trip so many boats stayed close to shore.
Most of the locals were indifferent to our filming. We were just another part of the market chaos! But a few people were more suspicious or cautious and wouldn’t allow us to film their stalls. The pressure to stop shark fishing is a sensitive issue in Taiwan. Some people see it as a cultural right. Sharks are a very normal part of the local diet and we found it on the menu in many of the places we ate. But we also saw other small signs of hope.
At the fish markets posters warn fishermen that certain species of shark are now protected and that catching them will result in a fine. And Taiwan was the first country in Asia to ban shark finning.
Filming dead sharks wasn’t pleasant, but it did show just what sharks are up against.