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Researching the Shark Fin Trade

Image of shark fin trade
Project AWARE News

Fisheries scientist, Dr. Shelley Clarke talks about her work with sharks and the shark fin trade in an interview with our partners at Shark Alliance*.

Based in Japan, Dr. Clarke received her doctorate in quantitative fisheries science from Imperial College London in 2003 for her ground-breaking study of the shark fin trade.

She believes that East Asia, as the largest and fastest-growing seafood markets, exerts a tremendous, but often overlooked and widely misunderstood, influence on the world's oceans.

This video interview sheds light on some key shark conversation topics, such as the number of sharks traded for their fins, the role of EU fleets (particularly Spain), the impact of finning bans (bans that prohibit the removal of shark fin’s at sea and discarding the body at sea) and the best methods for enforcing them.

Dr Clarke's estimate for the number of sharks traded for their fins each year is not a 100 million, or 73 million as often stated but 38 million based on the data gathered in year 2000. Things have changed since then, and she's often asked: "The number must have gone up?".

"The demand for shark fins has gone up but the supply has declined" she replies. "In 2003, we possibly reached a point in the fisheries and that's when we started to impact the size of shark populations".

To gather the information on fin trade in the port of Hong Kong, she used the published customs records and worked directly with auction traders to build her model.

"You can pretty much say that every country with a coastline export fins to Hong Kong" she adds. "The EU is the single largest supplier to the Hong Kong market".

She concludes by explaining that moving from the complex "fin-to-carcass ratio" policy to a fins naturally attached policy as well as providing  background on the shark fin trade is one of the best methods to implement and enforce shark fin bans.

"Even though finning bans may not control shark mortality it is a very good way for us to understand what sharks of what species are being killed because we have very poor catch records".

Project AWARE strongly supports the European Commission’s proposal for a fins naturally attached policy. Toghether with the Shark Alliance*, we are currently working closely with members of the European Parliament and Council to secure a shark finning policy with no compromise or exceptions and close loopholes in the EU Shark Finning Ban. Stay tuned for updates on the progress we are making in Europe to secure tighter shark finning regulations.

*Project AWARE is a steering group member of the Shark Alliance, a global, not-for-profit coalition of non-governmental organizations dedicated to restoring and conserving shark populations by improving shark conservation policies.

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