Tag Archives: Shark fins

New Study Estimates 100 Million Sharks Killed Each Year

Almost 100 million sharks are being killed each year, with fishing rates outstripping the ability of populations to recover, scientists have estimated.

Sharks need better protection to prevent possible extinction of many species within coming decades, the researchers warned ahead of latest global meeting to discuss the trade in threatened species.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) meeting, starting on Monday in Bangkok, will consider greater protection of vulnerable sharks, including porbeagles, oceanic whitetip and three types of hammerhead to prevent unsustainable international trade in them.

Sharks are targeted for their fins for use in shark fin soup, a delicacy in Asia.

But as they are slow-growing and slow to reproduce, they are vulnerable to overfishing. The researchers estimated that global reported catches, unreported landings, discards and sharks caught and thrown back after their fins were cut off – a process known as finning – added up to 97 million fish caught in 2010.

The figure is only slightly down on the estimated 100m caught in 2000, and could be anywhere between 63 million sharks and 273 million a year, the research by North American scientists published in the journal Marine Policy said.

It is estimated that between 6.4% and 7.9% of all sharks are being killed each year, above the level that many populations can cope with, leading to declines in a number of species.

Lead author Boris Worm, from Dalhousie University in Halifax, said: “Biologically, sharks simply can’t keep up with the current rate of exploitation and demand.

“Protective measures must be scaled up significantly in order to avoid further depletion and the possible extinction of many sharks species in our lifetime.”

Although some regions, including the European Union, have banned shark finning, commercial fisheries for fins, meat, liver oil, cartilage and other body parts is largely unregulated in much of the world, conservationists warn.

Under the proposals put forward for consideration by the Cites meeting, five shark species would be listed as Appendix II which would ensure that any international trade in them is sustainable and legal. A previous attempt to have the trade in some species of shark monitored and regulated under the Cites treaty narrowly failed, but conservation charity Pew Environment Group believes there is a great deal of momentum behind the latest bid.

Elizabeth Wilson, manager of global shark conservation at Pew, said the proposals had broad support across developed and developing countries and campaigners were hopeful that something positive could come from the meeting.

She said the study published today showed that people were killing an “enormous” number of sharks.

“We are now the predators. Humans have mounted an unrelenting assault on sharks, and their numbers are crashing throughout the world’s oceans.”

But she said: “A simple vote ‘yes’ to support their listing could turn things around for some of the world’s most threatened shark species. Countries should seize this opportunity to protect these top predators from extinction.”

The Cites meeting is also considering protection for manta rays, which are being fished for their gill plates that are sold in China as medicine claimed to treat a range of health complaints from asthma to chicken pox and even cancer.

The trade is on the increase, with Mozambique recording an 86% decline in sightings of the fish over the last eight years, Ms Wilson said.

But manta rays are very important in eco-tourism, providing a major draw for divers who will pay a lot to see them, she added, raising hopes countries will want to protect them.

Sharks of the Philippines and Shark Fins in Asia

In May and June of 2011 I accompanied the 2011 California Academy of Sciences Philippines Biodiversity Expedition as videographer and scientist, exploring, explaining and protecting the natural world.  In over 1000 dives our team observed only two sharks. These whitetip reef sharks generally frequent a local reef and were protected by a dive resort.  If these sharks leave the region of the resort, they are fair game to poachers who sell shark fins for shark fin soup.  We were told by fishermen and divers that most of the fins go to China. Just a decade ago Dr. John McCosker  and other researchers describe these same waters barren of sharks to have been "Sharky."  Waters once filled with sharks are being fished out.

We visited the Manila fish market with Dr. John McCosker and did not see any shark meat for sale. When asked, the vendors stated they used to sell sharks but the sharks are all gone from the shark fin trade. Sadly, we did observe large rays for sale. Increasingly, shark fins are being replaced by the fins of rays like Manta Rays, Eagle Rays and Spotted Rays.  This fishing down and out of the food chain is creating serious harm to the balance of our ocean.


The other side of the story is killing an animal for a small body part is wasteful, and cruel if the animal is alive.  The elephant ivory trade and rhino horn are perfect examples of a brutality that is unconscionable. In the South Pacific I observed the killing of sharks for their fins, longlines filled with dead and living sharks in Costa Rica, and drying shark fins lining the rails of ships which were unloading tuna.  Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States explains the cruelty and why we should care about the well being of sharks, and respect ocean life.  http://www.sgvtribune.com/opinions/ci_18472268

This is one of the reasons Sea Stewards is supporting a ban on the shark fin trade in California and throughout the world. This unsustainable dish is one of the symptoms of an unhealthy ocean, but one which we can reverse.  There are healthy alternatives to shark fin soup, just as there are for Salmon, Beluga Caviar and other exotic dishes or dishes made from threatened species.


We can make a difference for the health of the oceans, starting with sharks and sustainable practices.  Act now, before the ocean is empty and future humanity suffers the loss.

Please support the work of the Humane Society, Sea Stewards and other ocean advocates.




Videography by David McGuire

San Francisco Shark Fin Consumption Contributes to the Decrease of World Sharks

KQED Forum Show on the State Shark Fin Ban  

A State shark fin ban is about sustainability.  Supply cannot meet the demand. 

The California shark fin market is contributing to a world decimation of sharks.

Sharks are important to the health of the oceans and directly to peoples of all cultures.

With the Hamilton Lab at the California Academy Sciences Sea Stewards sequenced the DNA of shark fins bought in San Francisco.

Of 19 samples that were successfully sequenced discovered 14 species including sharks that inhabit California waters.  Over half are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN and one was is a species threatened with endangerment.

The latter was the prepared noodle and completely unrecognizable.  Others were from species that live in the Indian and Atlantic oceans as well as the Pacific Ocean.  This is an international trade affecting sharks worldwide.  As Dr. McCosker said, sharks cannot be farmed due to their biology.  There is no sustainable source of shark fins from any fishery to support the demand.

To screen sharks at the ports is unviable.  DNA analysis is a time intensive, costly and laborious process and cannot be (as one caller suggested) used on a large scale to screen sharks.

This is about sustainability.  There are sustainable alternatives to shark fin soup.

 We are joined by Asian Americans and Asian American groups like the Asian Pacific American Ocean Harmony Alliance in supporting sharks and banning the sale of shark fins.

Senator Yee has been informed in meetings about the facts.  We hope that he will change his stance and support sustainable solutions independent of any culture.