Demand for fins “imperils sharks”

Increases in Asian demand for shark fin soup is the major factor driving illegal shark fishing and contributing to a plunge in stocks of the fish, Reuters reported, citing a report by the Australian government and the wildlife-trade monitoring network Traffic.


The study found that one in five shark species is facing extinction and urged governments to deal more harshly with illegal catches. "Hotspots" for such catches include the western and central Pacific Ocean and Central and South America. While the size of illegal catches is not known, registered legal exports totalled US$310 million worldwide in 2005, up from US$237 million in 2002.


Only six of the top 20 shark-catching countries — Taiwan, Mexico, the United States, Japan, Malaysia and Thailand — have responded to a United Nations call in 2000 to work out plans to regulate shark stocks more closely. Experts from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation are meeting in Rome this week to review measures to protect the fish.


Shredded shark fin in soup is considered a delicacy in places such as China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan. Short fin mako, blue, sandbar, bull, hammerhead, silky and thresher sharks are the most commonly traded species in Hong Kong, the world’s largest shark market.


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