Shark Fin Demand Pushes 11 Species
May 22, 2008
May 22, 2008 -- Overfishing driven in part by an insatiable
appetite for shark-fin soup has threatened 11 species of the
ocean-dwelling predators with extinction, according to a report
released on Thursday.
The first study to assess the worldwide status of 21 species of
pelagic sharks and rays -- those living and hunting in open seas
-- found that more than half are rapidly being fished out of
Particularly vulnerable species include the short-finned mako, the
thresher and the silky, said the report, to be published in the
journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.
"Despite mounting evidence of decline and increasing threats to
these species, there are no international catch limits for oceanic
sharks," said co-author Sonja Fordham, a researcher at the Oceans
Conservancy and Shark Alliance in Brussels.
"Our research shows that action is urgently needed on a global
level if these fisheries are to be sustainable."
Many big shark species have fallen prey to booming Asian economies
where shark-fin soup is prized as a must-have delicacy at weddings
and other banquet occasions. The fins are often sliced off of
living fish which are then discarded in the sea.
Accidental "by-catch" by industrial fishing operations have also
decimated shark populations, the study said.
Sharks and big rays are especially vulnerable to overfishing
because they take many years to reach sexual maturity and have
relatively few offspring.
"We are losing species at a rate 10 to 100 times greater than
historic rates," said the study's lead author, Nicholas Dulvy, a
professor at Sime Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada.
The report, presented at a major UN conference on biodiversity in
Bonn, calls for the establishment and enforcement of science-based
catch limits for sharks and rays, and a ban on the practice of "shark
The 11-day Bonn conference seeks to prevent the destruction of
countless plant and animal species.
It is the ninth of its kind of countries who signed up to the UN
Convention on Biological Diversity at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.