The demand for shark fin soup and lack of laws and sustainable practices regulating shark overfishing has lead to massive declines in shark populations in recent years, says a new UBC study.
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Hong Kong, the Sea Around Us initiative at the University of British Columbia and WildAid HongKong, shows that shark catches amount to about 1.4 million tonnes per year, more than double what they were six decades ago.
“Almost 60% of shark species are being threatened, the highest proportion among all vertebrate groups,” says Daniel Pauly, study co-author and principal investigator with the Sea Around Us initiative at UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries.
The overwhelming bulk of shark fins traded globally originate from the unmanaged fisheries of less economically developed countries like Indonesia, where annual shark catches exceed 100,000 tonnes. India, Spain and Taiwan also play an important role in the netting of sharks and subsequent sale of their fins in international markets.
The study estimates that only 4,300 tonnes of dried fins are produced sustainably every year, while a further 25,000 tones originate from largely unsustainable and illegal fisheries.
“Extinction must not make the decision for us,” says Pauly. “Consumers have to act fast and decide what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to vulnerable species.”
The paper “Out of control means off the menu: The case for ceasing consumption of luxury products from highly vulnerable species when international trade cannot be adequately controlled; shark fin as a case study” was published in Marine Policy.