While a new study warns that up to 100 million sharks are killed annually, there are signs out of China that demand for shark fin may be on the decline.
A study published last week in the journal Marine Policy estimated shark deaths at 100 million in 2000 and 97 million in 2010, suggesting a slight drop in shark killing. Meanwhile reports out of China in recent months suggest an accelerating decline in shark fin consumption. China is the top market for shark fin, which is consumed as a status symbol, typically at wedding ceremonies and business dinners.
Figures released by Chinese officials late last year showed that shark fin imports fell from 10,292 metric tons in 2011 to 3,087 through the fist 11 months of 2012. Meanwhile, last summer the Chinese government announced it will stop serving shark fin at state dinners, an important symbolic move. The Chinese media has also recently grappled with the issue, noting that shark fins are loaded with mercury and have no nutritional value.
“Wine is replacing shark fin. It conveys status as well or better than shark fin,” Peter Knights, the head of WildAid, which has lead a campaign against shark fin soup, told mongabay.com. “Things are really coming to a head now and it is becoming more mainstream to address the demand side of the wildlife trade. The shark campaign is working, but whether we can apply it to rhinos and elephants is the next challenge.”
Various media outlets have reported that the price of shark fins in plummeting, down by about 50-70 percent in China. A drop in price means fishermen are less likely to target sharks. Such a reduction, if confirmed, would represent millions of sharks being saved from the hook.
Sharks have also seen good news on the conservation side in recent years. Numerous countries have declared some or all of their waters as “shark sanctuaries.” In addition, shark fin soup has faced legislative bans in a number of U.S. states.
Still biologists fear for many species of shark, especially given slow maturation, long lifespan and few offspring. The researchers estimated that fisheries are taking 6.4 to 7.9 percent of the world’s total shark population from the ocean every year. However, sharks average population growth rate is about 4.9 percent. If sharks are allowed to recover, it will be a slow and long process much like is has been for whales since industrial whaling was banned in the mid-1980s.
In the meantime, the decline in sharks is likely having impacts across the world’s oceans as top predators, both on land and in water, play oversized roles on ecological stability.
“This is a big concern because the loss of sharks can affect the wider ecosystem,” said co-author of the Marine Policy paper Mike Heithaus, with Florida International University. “In working with tiger sharks, we’ve seen that if we don’t have enough of these predators around, it causes cascading changes in the ecosystem, that trickle all the way down to marine plants.”
At the current CITES meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, nations are proposing to list several shark species for protection including the scalloped hammerhead shark (Sphyrna lewini), great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran), smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zygaena), Oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus), and porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus). CITES participants will also vote on protecting manta rays, which is also overfished for its gill plates that are used in Chinese Traditional Medicine.
CITATION: Boris Worm, Brendal Davis, Lisa Kettemer, Christine A. Ward-Paige, Demian Chapman, Michael R. Heithaus, Steven T. Kessel, Samuel H. Gruber. Global catches, exploitation rates, and rebuilding options for sharks. Marine Policy. 2013.
Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0304-butler-hance-sharks.html
Share on social media:
You may also like:
Top-Viewed Posts Last 30 Days
- POLL: Should foxes be culled to protect domestic pets? [3657 Views]
- 10 amazing birds that have gone extinct [1200 Views]
- POLL: Should the trade in both raw and antique ivory be banned? [1192 Views]
- POLL: Should India’s export of tiger skin, parts and bones be stopped? [1089 Views]
- POLL: Is big game hunting important for African economies? [1039 Views]
- Gray Squirrels versus Red Squirrels – The Facts [970 Views]
- POLL: Should the use of exotic animal skins for fashion be banned? [960 Views]
- POLL: Should wildlife crime be enforced by tougher legislation? [782 Views]
- POLL: Should the Eurasian Lynx be rewilded? [772 Views]
- POLL: Should the grey squirrel be culled to protect red squirrels? [752 Views]
Top-Viewed Posts Last 12 Months
- White Killer Whale Adult Spotted for First Time in Wild [42029 Views]
- POLL: Should there be a worldwide ban on fur farms? [16755 Views]
- POLL: Should the annual Canadian seal hunt be banned? [13871 Views]
- POLL: Should fur farming be banned in the European Union? [13820 Views]
- POLL: Should Congress disband Wildlife “Killing” Services? [11114 Views]
- Gray Squirrels versus Red Squirrels – The Facts [10940 Views]
- POLL: Should driven grouse-shooting be banned? [8598 Views]
- POLL: Should grouse shooting on highland estates be banned? [8303 Views]
- POLL: Should black bears be killed for Royal Guards’ fur caps? [8039 Views]
- POLL: Should China’s dog meat festival be banned? [7392 Views]