Shark Conservation at DEMA 2010

Shark finning is not just something done by Asian fishermen, according to Suzanne Pleydell, international director of the Project AWARE Foundation. While the top two shark-fishing nations are Indonesia and India, Spain accounts for one-quarter of the Asian shark fin market, Pleydell said during a seminar at DEMA 2010.

“It’s a global problem — it isn’t just an Asian problem,” she added.

Another part of the problem is the lack of data on the number of shark species that are actually threatened with extinction, according to Pleydell. Scientists and policymakers lack information on 47 percent of all shark species, with very little information on how many sharks have been caught or how many were discarded after having their valuable fins — worth up to $740 per kilogram — cut off, she said.

The latest figures show that 17 percent of 1,044 shark species are endangered, according to Pleydell, although she said that figure could be closer to 30 percent and some populations have experienced a 70-80 percent decline. United Kingdom-based Pleydell is also a group manager for education and instructor development at PADI International.

Project AWARE wants to persuade countries to lower the waste caused from shark finning by helping them find economically sound ways to keep the entire fish, according to Pleydell, who used Costa Rica as an example of what can be done to reduce that waste.

Costa Rican fishing vessels are “an excellent example of the ‘partial-cut’ technique of keeping the fins attached — cutting three-quarters of the way through the fin, bending it over so the freezer vessels can still store the fins and stack the fish,” she said.

“They’ve been doing it for several years, so they’ve just been very progressive in trying to preserve sharks,” according to Pleydell. “They’ve kind of proved to the world that it can be done, and we’re using them as an example in Europe to lobby for the same thing.”

Consequently, Project AWARE is urging the European Union to pass a ban on shark finning. Click here for more information.