State of Sharks

Looming Shark Extinction

  • An estimated 73 million sharks are killed each year (that works out to more than 10,000 sharks per hour).
  • Sharks are perceived to be vicious killers, but humans are not on the sharks’ menu.
  • There are 6.65 billion people in the world and in the past two years, only sharks killed a handful of those people.
  • It is estimated that 90 percent of large sharks have been wiped out regionally. For instance, 93-99 percent of all large sharks off the east coast of North America have been destroyed (tiger sharks, bull sharks, hammerhead sharks.)
  • On the IUCN's Red List of endangered species, 50 shark species are listed as being at high risk of extinction (either Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable) and 63 additional endangered shark species are approaching threatened status. Another 199 species of sharks are considered 'data deficient', many of which may well be endangered, but there is insufficient data to determine their status. There is also regional information available to indicate that sharks are functionally extinct in large parts of the ocean due to over fishing.
  • While shark finning is contrary to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's International Plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks, as mentioned above, these are not legal requirements – merely recommendations – and thus cannot be enforced.
  • No national or international laws or treaties exist to prohibit the sale of shark fin.
  • Furthermore, many countries are engaged in either trading or supplying shark fin. More than 100 countries are involved in the business of trading in shark fins with most exporting to the main consumer nations: mainland China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand. The United States and the European Union also import significant quantities to local Chinese communities.
  • Hong Kong handles 50% - 80% of the world trade in shark fin. And the major suppliers might surprise you: Europe, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, the United States, India, Japan, Mexico, Yemen and United Arab Emirates.
  • A third of all fins imported to Hong Kong come from Europe. Spain is by far the largest supplier, but Norway, Britain, France, Portugal and Italy are also major suppliers.
  • Shark finning is the practice of catching a live shark, slicing off its fins with a hot knife blade and then dumping the still-living shark back in the ocean, where it drowns or bleeds to death.
  • During the finning process, 95 – 98% of the shark is wasted, meat that could feed the millions starving throughout the world.
  • Reported trade in shark fins has more than doubled, from 3,011 metric tons in 1985 to 7,048 metric tons in 1997. In 2006, the largest number of sharks were killed in history – though we already knew their numbers were severely threatened.
  • Shark finning is largely illegal. In many areas, fishing fleets are regulated by a fin-to-carcass weight ratio, which means that shark fins can only be a certain percentage of the total weight of their shark haul onboard. But fleets routinely exploit loopholes or ignore regulations altogether, and corrupt authorities often turn a blind eye. Enforcement worldwide is sorely lacking.
  • Many of the estimated 73 million sharks killed each year are killed by the shark finning industry.
  • Global trade in shark fins is increasing, and the market for shark fin soup is estimated to be growing by 5 - 15 percent per year. Last year, consumption of shark fin soup was up 30% in Singapore, and trade of fins was up 100%. Sadly, while demand is skyrocketing, supply is plummeting causing fisherman to go to drastic measures – even finning baby sharks.
  • Finning occurs worldwide and is most common in high seas fisheries, hundreds of miles out at sea. Oceanic fishing fleets target valuable fish such as tuna, using thousands of baited hooks on miles of long-line, and freezing their catch onboard. Until relatively recently, this shark 'bycatch' was considered a nuisance, and sharks were cut loose and allowed to swim away. However, as shark fins have become increasingly valuable, sharks are now deliberately targeted by these same fisheries, with captured sharks finned while alive and then, while the shark is often still alive, it is thrown back into the water to suffocate or bleed to death.
  • High tech, industrial fishing fleets and years of overfishing have done their damage; the oceans are in demise. Many scientists believe commercial fisheries will collapse worldwide by 2048, although regionally, thousands of fisheries have already collapsed.
  • Fish (including sharks) cannot compete with our excessive demands – and fishermen (often times with governmental support), desperate to make a living, are going to all corners of the planet to catch the last remaining fish. With 90% of the large commercial fish gone from the seas, the fishing industries are now “fishing down the food chain”, focusing on smaller species and undersized, immature/juvenile fish. This puts pressure on species traditionally considered less or non-commercially viable – including sharks.
  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), about 80% of our global fisheries are now being fished close to, already at, or beyond their capacity – with more than 50% of fish stocks considered fully exploited. 1% of the world's industrial fishing fleets account for 50% of the world's catches. It is estimated that global fishing fleets are 250% larger than the oceans can sustainably support around the world, so governments provide subsidies of over $15 billion a year to fisheries. Laws often support the fishermen and until recently, the oceans, for all practical purposes, have been within their control.
  • Given the stakes and money involved, much fishing occurs illegally; an estimated $9 billion of illegal fishing occurs yearly. Sadly, until recently, these issues have been largely ignored.
  • Technology has also resulted in irresponsible—and often illegal—forms of indiscriminate fishing ranging from long-lines and trawls to gillnets and drift nets. The result? 43 million tons of bycatch.

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