02/11/2011 - Sunrise is still a good hour away when the first batch of limp, lifeless sharks are winched ashore and dumped on to the portside at Kesennuma.
As daylight throws its first shadows on to the loading bay, fishery workers begin gutting the sharks before removing their fins with razor-sharp knives. It is a messy, blood-spattered business, and a study in industrial efficiency.
The fins are hurled into plastic buckets, and what's left of the animals is scooped up by a forklift and loaded on to a truck. In contrast, the marlin, swordfish and bluefin tuna that share the port's 1,000 metre-long bay are afforded almost reverential treatment.
In a report released to coincide with a meeting of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization last month, the Washington-based Pew Environment Group said at least 73 million sharks were killed every year, primarily for their fins.
"Sharks play a critical role in the ocean environment," said Pew's global shark conservation manager, Jill Hepp. "Where shark populations are healthy, marine life thrives. But where they have been overfished, ecosystems fall out of balance.
"Shark-catching countries must stand by their commitments and act now to conserve and protect these animals."
Read Shark Fishing in Japan – A Messy, Blood-Spattered Business in its entirety on The Guardian's Web site.