Three to four times as many sharks are killed for their fins as are reported in the official figures.
Researchers looked at trade in shark fins, and used genetic identification to estimate by species the number of globally traded shark fins.
The results are the first fishery-independent estimate of the scale of shark catches worldwide. If the estimates are correct for one of the most commonly traded species, the blue shark, then the nubers being caught are very close to the maximum sustainable levels.
Increasing awareness of the vulnerability of shark species to exploitation and a proliferation of finning (i.e. removal of fins and discarding of the carcass at sea) have contributed to growing concerns that the fin trade may be driving shark catches to unsustainable levels.
The research was led by Shelley Clarke of Imperial College London who has lived in Asia for over 12 years.
Hong Kong is world’s largest shark fin market with at least half of the global trade.
Ecology Letters, Volume 9, Number 10, October 2006, pp. 1115-1126(12)
Conservation Biology Volume 20, No. 1, 201–211