Published 14 July 2021


Shark fin ID pages now in multiple languages

This Shark Awareness Day, TRAFFIC is releasing French and Chinese translations of shark fin identification pages for 12 key species found in trade. The pages also provide 3D shark fin scans to support frontline law enforcement officials combat the illegal trade that is accelerating shark population declines globally.

Supplying our free-to-download 3D replica shark fin package in multiple languages will close the gaps in knowledge and just as importantly, make these assets increasingly accessible to authorities the world over.”

Simone Louw, Project Officer at TRAFFIC

Initially released in English, the 3D replica shark fins package has already been downloaded more than 50 times, with discussions currently under way for the production of fins sets to support enforcement officials in Peru and Sri Lanka.

“We hope this will encourage other agencies to train their staff in accurately identifying regularly traded CITES-listed species, and for assisting in the active inspection of shark fins in trade.” said Markus Burgener of TRAFFIC. In collaboration with WILDTRUST (a South African conservation organisation), he recently led a training session on shark fin identification for South African Customs and Fisheries officials.  

“The training and provision of shark identification tools is supporting law enforcement officials to make better informed and more confident compliance decisions to curb the illegal shark trade,” continued Burgener.

The demand for shark fins drives a lucrative, yet sometimes illegal, international trade, especially in Asia, where shark fin soup is prized for its perceived status value. At the same time, due to decades of over-fishing, more shark species are being re-classified as threatened with extinction.

Despite the inclusion of many shark species on CITES­­, stretched enforcement officials frequently lack the necessary skills and tools for rapid confident identification, resulting in illegally traded shark fins frequently slipping through the net. The illicit harvest and trafficking of shark products remain a global issue.

TRAFFIC plans to release the 3D shark fins in more languages soon. 


Global assessments estimate that between 26 and 73 million sharks are traded each year. But the actual figure is likely to be far higher, even when conservative values of unreported bycatch or illegal fishing are accounted for.

Currently, 46 species of sharks and rays are listed in Appendix I and Appendix II CITES, the international convention that governs international wildlife trade. Required permits should be issued when trading specific species of sharks listed in Appendices I or II, limiting or entirely prohibiting trade in their products.

The replica fins have been developed to be nearly impossible to differentiate from the real thing. A selective laser sintering process using nylon as the primary material forms part of the development process, giving the fins a slightly rough, sandpaper-like texture – similar to real dried shark fins found in trade.

Distinctive markings and colouration, crucial for accurate identification, are incorporated into the replica fins’ development. Comprehensive painting guidance is included in the downloadable files to ensure the 3D fins can be accurately replicated for law enforcement agencies worldwide.

3D shark fins in Chinese

3D shark fins in French