By Lilit Marcus, Jessie Yeung and CNN’s Beijing bureau
A Chinese vlogger is facing widespread online backlash and a monetary fine after she livestreamed herself cooking and eating a great white shark, a protected species in China.
In the clip, the livestreamer, who calls herself Tizi, shows off the shark, which is about the same size as her, and then cooks and eats it.
It was filmed last year and has since been deleted from Chinese video websites Kuaishou and Douyin.
Tizi, whose surname police identified as Jin, said she bought the shark on the online shopping platform Taobao in April 2022 for 7,700 yuan ($1,150).
The video was posted in July and quickly went viral. However, the fine was only issued this week following a local investigation.
Police in the city of Nanchong, Sichuan province, where she lives and where the video was filmed, confirmed that the shark in the video really was a great white.
They are a protected species under China’s wildlife protection law, which has been strengthened and expanded in recent years amid nationwide reforms regarding biodiversity conservation.
Tizi’s behavior “violated the relevant provisions,” and she was given “an administrative punishment according to the law,” said the official WeChat account of the Sichuan Nanchong Market Supervision Administration.
Tizi was not arrested, but she has been fined 125,000 yuan ($18,600). Her social media accounts have been removed. Meanwhile, two fishermen accused of selling sharks, surnamed Shen and Yan, were arrested, said the Sichuan Nanchong account.
The video drew horror from many Chinese social media users who condemned Tizi’s actions, with several calling for her arrest or a stronger punishment.
“This is only an administrative penalty. How can we talk about animal protection?” one user wrote on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.
“Since you have done something wrong, you will suffer the consequences!” said a user on Douyin, the video platform.
Others expressed distaste at the increasingly outlandish stunts done by livestreamers in a bid to gain views and followers. Livestreaming is a huge, lucrative business in China — but also highly competitive.
In recent years, Chinese authorities have cracked down on the exploitation or harvesting of protected species amid several high-profile campaigns that have helped change attitudes among the public.
Famously, NBA star and Chinese homegrown hero Yao Ming pledged to give up shark fin soup in 2006, campaigning for the end of illegal wildlife trade in TV ads, billboards and at public events.
Shark fin soup is a traditional delicacy in Chinese cuisine and has been served in Chinese restaurants worldwide for decades. The often-expensive dish is deemed a symbol of prestige and often consumed during celebratory events like the Lunar New Year or wedding banquets.
But critics have long lambasted the cruelty and unsustainability of the practice. When a shark’s fin is sliced off, it can no longer move, feed, swim or breathe; it will starve or suffocate to death on the sea floor. And when shark populations decrease, it can throw their entire ecosystems into chaos.
A 2021 study found that shark and ray populations fell 71.1% from 1970 to 2018, and some species could disappear from our seas altogether.
Yao Ming’s campaign and similar others appear to have worked; China banned shark fin dishes from official banquets in 2013. This, and the awareness campaigns, led to a massive drop in shark fin consumption in mainland China in the last decade, according to WildAid.
Top image: A boy walks past a billboard showing Chinese basketball star Yao Ming in a campaign to raise awareness on wildlife preservation in Beijing in June 2007. Credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images
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CNN’s Laura He contributed reporting.