New research from Florida International University (FIU) shows that conservation efforts in the Atlantic Ocean may be working for one of the most popular — and endangered — species that ends up in the global shark fin trade.

Researchers, in collaboration with scientists in Hong Kong, used DNA analysis to track where fins in the global shark fin trade originate.

Testing revealed 99.8 percent of the fins sampled from retail markets in Hong Kong and China originated from the Indo-Pacific Ocean. Virtually none came from the Atlantic Ocean, which provides the first evidence that conservation efforts could be making an impact.

According to FIU research, around 100 million sharks are killed every year. Nearly one-third of the shark species in the global shark fin trade are at risk of extinction.

Open ocean sharks, like silky sharks, face a considerable risk of overexploitation because they get caught in nets and longlines set by fishing fleets targeting tuna. High demand for shark fins in Asia means that although they are considered accidental by-catch, they are by-catch worth keeping.

Only developing nations are allowed to fish for silky sharks as a source of food.

“Understanding which species are most prevalent in the shark fin trade can help identify the species in need of conservation intervention,” said Diego Cardeñosa, an FIU postdoctoral researcher in the Institute of Environment and lead author of the study. “Tracing the populations of origin can help identify the key management jurisdictions that can lead proper interventions.”

Further Reading

Cardeñosa, D., et al. (2020). Indo-Pacific origins of silky shark fins in major shark fin markets highlights supply chains and management bodies key for conservation. Conservation Lettershttps://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12780.

Image credit: q phia, CC-by-2.0

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