A report by the conservation group WildAid says sharks —Hammerhead, Great White and Basking, in particular — could face extinction within a generation from overfishing for their fins.
It states that over 90 percent of shark fin is consumed in China and demand is growing rapidly as the economy develops. More sharks are thus being caught, many illegally in areas that are meant to be protected.
WildAid is now calling on the Chinese government to lead the way in their protection.
‘These animals have been here for 400 million years,’ WildAid executive director Peter Knights told a news conference to launch the report, ‘and they may disappear in one generation, not to provide people with basic food, but for a solely luxury item.’
Shark fin soup is traditionally served at Chinese wedding banquets and other occasions when hosts wish to impress guests. A survey carried out in China in 2006 by WildAid and the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association found that 35 percent of respondents had consumed shark fin soup in the last year, while 83 percent of participants in an online survey conducted by the World Wide Fund For Nature said that they had eaten shark fin soup at some tage in their lives.
‘Precisely the role China plays is one of unsustainable demand,’ claims WildAid president Steve Trent. The demand for shark fin soup as it now stands, and as it’s set to increase, cannot be sustained by wild shark populations.’
‘This is a role where the Chinese government can show genuine global leadership and can help many other countries around the world that are extremely poor and less well resourced, to protect their shark populations,’ he adds.
According to a WildAid report in May: ‘Between 26 and 73 million sharks are traded globally each year, while reported world trade in fins has nearly tripled from 4,900 metric tonnes in 1987 to 13,600 metric tonnes in 2004.’
‘Recent research has proven that many shark species and populations have experienced precipitous declines over the past 20 years, some by as much as 99 per cent’, Trent concludes.