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Wildlife Trade Specialists

Silky shark on a longline hook, Indian Ocean © Simon Buxton / WWF

Illegal, unreported and unregulated shark catch

Silky shark on a longline hook, Indian Ocean © Simon Buxton / WWF

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Published 3rd November 2008

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Cambridge, UK / Canberra, Australia, 3rd November 2008-As the world's demand for sharks continues to grow, shark populations are plummeting. The Asian market for shark fin is the key driver of shark fishing globally and is fuelling illegal fishing and high levels of legitimate shark fishing of questionable sustainability, according to a new report jointly published by the Australian Government and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated shark catch

Report author(s):
M. Lack and G. Sant

Publication date:
November 2008


Notes:

  • Sharks' fins are consumed as a luxury food item in Asia and the demand for them is fuelled by the rising affluence in the region. In Hong Kong, the world's largest shark-fin market, the species whose fins are most commonly recorded in trade are Blue, Shortfin Mako, Sandbar, Bull, hammerhead, silky and thresher sharks. Blue and silky sharks are mainly caught as a by-product of tuna-fishing operations. Hammerhead and silky sharks are the species most often identified as caught by illegal fishing vessels.
  • The major importers of fins in recorded trade are China (including Hong Kong and Macao), Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan.
  • The recorded trade in all shark products (meat, fins and other products) is highly lucrative, worth USD310 million in 2005, and although by volume fins only accounted for 7% of this trade, they were worth 40% of the total.
  • The top 20 catching countries / territories in 2006 according to data reported to FAO are identified below. It should be noted that some do not report their catch, or do not report accurately, to FAO.
PositionCatchertonnes%
1.Indonesia9825013.0
2.India7782110.3
3.Taiwan, Province of China*493756.5
4.Argentina402935.3
5.Spain400575.3
6.Mexico*391065.4
7.USA*319764.2
8.Japan*261783.5
9.Malaysia*222402.9
10.Thailand*211872.8
11.Pakistan201272.7
12.France190822.5
13.Brazil183892.4
14.Portugal169342.2
15.New Zealand167832.2
16.Iran (Islamic Rep. of)150152.0
17.Nigeria144441.9
18.Yemen130601.7
19.Venezuela, Boliv. Rep of112941.5
20.Korea, Republic of108411.4
21.Others15604620.6
 Global catch758498

* countries / territories who have implemented plans of action to manage sharks