New research has shined a light on the devastating impact of the global shark fin trade, with scientists discovering that over 70% of the shark species targeted for their fins are at risk of extinction.
The team conducted their research in one of the world’s largest shark fin hubs: Hong Kong. The scientists from the USA and China took samples from over 9,820 fin trimmings. They discovered that those fins belonged to 86 different species of rays and sharks, of which 61 were threatened with extinction.
According to Diego Cardenosa, a Florida International University (FIU) postdoctoral researcher and the study’s lead author:
“Overfishing is most likely the immediate cause of the declining trends we are seeing in shark and ray populations around the world. The fact that we are finding so many species threatened with extinction in the global shark fin trade is a warning sign telling us that international trade might be a main driver of unsustainable fishing. Our results highlight high levels of international trade and clear management gaps for coastal species. Many are in the highest extinction risk categories. The next category is extinction. We can’t allow this to happen.”
While the team leader, Director of the Sharks & Rays Conservation Research Program at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium and FIU Adjunct Professor Demian Chapman, said:
“A few nations are protecting or sustainably fishing sharks and their relatives, but the majority are not for a variety of reasons. Quite a few of the coastal sharks we found in the trade — such as smalltail, broadfin, whitecheek and various hound shark, river shark and small hammerhead species — are listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered and yet there are no regulations protecting them anywhere in their range. Unless the relevant governments respond with management soon, we are likely to experience a wave of extinctions among coastal sharks and rays.”
The team is pushing to have endangered sharks listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This will add more impetus to protect them.
According to Luke Warwick, the director of shark and ray conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society:
“The upcoming CITES CoP19 Governments have tabled proposals that would bring the vast majority of sharks traded for their fins under the Convention’s sustainability controls, action that has been informed by this study’s findings. We’re encouraged to see CITES Governments match their level of ambition to the level of threat seen for sharks and rays globally, with CITES listings a strong driver for better domestic management of shark fisheries.”