There's no arguing that this video from Gary Stokes is hard to digest ... the footage takes us on a walk down the streets of Sheung Wan (an area of northwest Hong Kong), where a shipment of shark fins has arrived from Spain. 

The video is a great example of the shocking scale that the fin trade operates on – but it's also a reminder to dig a bit deeper: mountains of fins in a video are not always proof of shark finning or wildlife crime.

There is a big difference between shark finning and shark fishing (check out David Shiffman's excellent explainer & quiz on this). Though Spain is among the top shark fishing countries in the world, it was the first EU country to adopt a ban on shark finning (implemented in 2002). The quantity of fins in the video is mindboggling ... but it IS possible that these sharks were fished sustainably (meaning the rest of the meat was used as well).

Three steps to identifying CITES listed shark species Image: Chapman/

Learning about shark fishing isn't the only thing you can do to stay in the fin-trade loop ... this easy-to-use shark fin guide teaches readers how to identify fins from threatened CITES-listed shark species. By looking at the photos in the guide we can see that the fins in this video didn't come from a species that's in particularly hot water just yet.

All these things are crucial to keep in mind when we share stories like with the masses ... mislabelling fishing operations as illegal, finning or crime in Facebook posts or tweets can actually work against conservation efforts. 

Top header image: Albert Ollé Callau/500px