Restaurateur criticized for rare fish photos

By Lauly Li ,The China Post

An owner of a seafood restaurant in Pingtung County (屏東縣) was criticized yesterday for taking a picture with a humphead wrasse — a species that is officially considered endangered in Taiwan— and commenting on how delicious the fish tastes. Given the fact that there are estimated to be less than 30 humphead wrasses in Taiwan, the Council of Agriculture (COA) recently announced that starting from July 1 the species will be recognized as an endangered species and cannot be captured in Taiwan.

The owner of the restaurant, surnamed Shao, posted a picture of himself and the fish in front of his restaurant on his Facebook profile the night before the COA’s announcement took effect. Shao said “this one is a very good humphead wrasse. The fish is freshly captured and its taste is irreplaceable.” A netizen left a comment on Shao’s Facebook profile saying that the fish is an endangered species. Shao responded that he knew the fish would become an endangered species after July 1. Shao later deleted the comments and his post.

Shao yesterday told local reporters that a friend took the fish to his restaurant and wanted to sell it to him, adding that, however, he rejected his friend’s offer as he knew the fish was set to be recognized as an endangered species. Shao defended his actions, saying that he merely took a photograph with the humphead wrasse and did not buy it from his friend. He said he is sorry for any misunderstanding. A restaurant in the outlying Lanyu Township (蘭嶼) of Pingtung was recently heavily criticized for serving humphead wrasse sashimi to its customers. A picture showing the restaurant owner cutting the fish into slices and customers eating the sashimi went viral on the Internet.

The owner told local media outlets that the picture was taken in 2013, adding that he did not break any laws and was not aware of the controversy he had caused.

The humphead wrasse, or the cheilinus undulatus, is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.