Scientists have highlighted the discrepancy between the number of fins observed in the international trade and the number of shark catches reported. In order to produce the number of fins traded, some 26 - 73 million sharks are estimated to be killed each year. This figure is three to four times higher than the official records of shark catches reported to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
“Shark fisheries have boomed in recent decades as international demand has risen for shark products,” added Sarah Fowler, Co-Chair for the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and one of the lead authors of the report. “Shark fins, exported to Asia for shark fin soup, are now among the most expensive seafood products in the world, fetching up to 500 € per kilogram. The effects of this demand on shark populations have been ignored for much too long.”
The European Union, led by Spain, is a major exporter of shark fins to China.
While focused on finning, the report stresses that high fishing pressure, coupled with the inherent vulnerability of most shark species, make the need for effective shark conservation measures urgent.
“An effective finning ban is essential but not sufficient to protect sharks from overfishing,” added Sonja Fordham, Policy Director for the Shark Alliance and workshop participant. “The improvements recommended in this report must be part of a comprehensive EU plan of action for conserving Europe’s shark populations – one that also includes strategies for better data collection and precautionary limits on shark catch.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
The October 2006 expert workshop was funded by the Lenfest Ocean Program and was attended by a group of international experts in shark research, trade, conservation and management, drawn from ten countries. This Lenfest Ocean Program Research Series report is a summary of a detailed report prepared by the European Elasmobranch Association based on the October 2006 meeting. Copies of the report summary and full EEA report can be found at www.sharkalliance.org
and will also be published at www.lenfestocean.org
The Lenfest Ocean Program brings the best scientific research to bear on identifying the causes, consequences and solutions to problems facing the global marine environment.
The Shark Alliance is a coalition of more than 30 non-governmental organizations dedicated to restoring and conserving shark populations by improving European fishing policy.
Photos and AV material relating to sharks and finning are available on request.