Shark kills number 100 million annually, research says

Shark fishing The numbers of sharks being fished has remained constant over the past decade

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The most accurate assessment to date of the impact of commercial fishing on sharks suggests around 100 million are being killed each year.

The researchers say that this rate of exploitation is far too high, especially for a species which reproduces later in life.

The major factor driving the trade is the ongoing demand for shark fins for soup in Chinese communities.

The report has been published in the Journal Marine Policy.

Researchers admit that establishing the true level of global shark fishing is extremely difficult, as the quality of the data is poor. Many sharks that are caught have their fins removed at sea with the body dumped overboard. These fish are often not included in official reports.

Fin margin

However, the scientists estimate a mortality range of between 63 and 273 million sharks in 2010.

Start Quote

They are not reproducing fast enough to keep up with the rate we are pulling them out of the ocean”

End Quote Dr Demian Chapman Stony Brook University

"There is a very large range and that speaks to the quality of data, which is not great," said Dr Demian Chapman from Stony Brook University in New York, US.

"Certainly 100 million is the median estimate and that's the best estimate there is," he added.

While the number of sharks being caught has not changed substantially between 2000 and 2010, the authors of the research argue that the commercial fishing fleets are simply changing location and the shark species they target in order to keep up with demand. The fear is that eventually these shark species will crash.

Fuelling the concern is the fact that many of the species that are most threatened are very slow to reproduce.

"A lot of the sharks that are prized in the trade take more than a decade to reach maturity," said Dr Chapman.

"There is a really razor-thin level of mortality that sharks can experience before their population trajectory becomes negative - that is really what's been happening.

"They are not reproducing fast enough to keep up with the rate we are pulling them out of the ocean," he added.

fins There seems to be no let-up in the demand for shark fins for use in soup by Chinese communities

The biggest driver for shark fishing has been the demand for shark fin soup, a product that is seen as a luxury item among Chinese communities.

While fins are still being cut off sharks at sea, several countries including Canada, the US and the European Union have tried to restrict this by law.

But this has not had the desired effect, Dr Chapman explained.

"The problem is that the fins are so valuable that now people are not 'finning' the sharks at sea - they're keeping the whole thing. But it is still dead; the finning bans have not stopped the root problem."

On Sunday, negotiators from 178 countries will gather in Bangkok for the meeting of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). There are proposals to regulate the trade in five of the most threatened species of shark.

At a previous meeting in 2010, similar restrictions fell just short of the required-two thirds majority. This time, campaigners say they have broad support among developed and developing countries and are optimistic they will be able to muster the required votes.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    It never ceases to amaze me, the sheer cruelty and brutality of the human race!

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Sharks are reallly important part of the Eco system, they keep fish numbers down.. Trees make 15% (ish) of the oxygen we breath, the seas make the rest via plankton.. Now if we didnt have the sharks, the fish would eat all the plankton, which means no oxygen we beath..

    So No sharks, No oxygen, No life, plus i love diving in the sea with sharks amazing animals and never felt threaten by them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    I'd like to complain about this article, It's an example of reporting bias. Everything is anti Chinese - no mention of the other nationalities who legally fish shark - there's no mention of the 20 global products derived from shark used by everybody - not just the Chinese - or the fact that US oil sponsors shark conservation through charitable foundations - a far more interesting story.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Shark fishing just to catch just to use it's fin is immoral a waste of time, and always a waste of food .

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Soon we will have polluted this Garden Of Eden we all live on to the point that it will kill us all off. After several millennia the planet will find a way to deal with all our plastics and chemicals and renew itself and be as beautiful as it once was. We however will never foul this nest again. Modern mankind considers itself omnipotent, the truth is the planet doesn't even know we are here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    have they tested for shark and seahorse in our fish fingers yet?

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    The Chinese, and the Japanese for that matter. place alot of emphasis on "honour". But there is NO HONOUR in hunting a species to extinction, and there is NO HONOUR in hunting it to extinction simply for the sake of its fins. Talk of Chinese or Japanese honour is simply a myth. This is an absolutely dis-honourable practice and it should be stopped before its too late.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    It seems that as long as the Chinese community get the ingredients for their absurd medicines and delicacies, they couldn't care less what the environmental impact is. Many of them can afford to spend ridiculous sums of money, driving up prices, which increases poaching considerably. The question is, what species will they turn to when all wild rhinos, tigers, black bears and sharks have gone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    89. Sea Shepherd?

    "Over 8,000 tons of shark fins are processed each year. The fins only amount to 4% of a shark's bodyweight."

    "demand has developed since 1985 and coincides with the rapid growth of the Chinese economy."

    And, yes, Sea Shepherd have operated against shark finning, and are also apparently active in education about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Do what you like, say what you wish, but there is still no creature that is more dangerous, selfish and cruel than a human being. They are rather loathsome considering that most profess to be religious, kind and caring.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    118.Rtingle...How can you possibly use the UK lottery and hens as analogies for the Chinese destroying the ocean's ecosystem by removing its apex predators? Your comment is almost as stupid as the Chinese people's taste for shark-fin soup...

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    See 117. Green Legend.

    Good point GL - This is why they will ultimately rule whatever is left of planet Earth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Soon there will be no more sharks in the worlds seas.

    What will Hollywood do then for its blockbusters (Jaws, Deep Blue Sea etc)

    I mean you couldn't really make a film called 'Attack of the Flounders'

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Totally agree.
    In the west we try to do all we can for the environment but what is the point if the Chinese regard it as something to be exploited and to hell with the consequences.
    To quote John Laurie 'We're all doomed...'

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Cruel slaughter: please stop killing sharks!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Talking about believing ridiculous ideas!

    What percentage of Chinese people believe shark's fin is good for them, compared with percentage of UK people who believe the National Lottery is good for them?

    100 million sharks a year is not much when shared out amongst a population of 1,354,040,000. I think thats about one shark between thirteen people per year. British hens beware!

  • Comment number 117.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    we live on a finate resource and think the larder will restock itself, problem is there are too many of us to turn back now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    @44 You have absolutely no idea. sharks are an apex predator.

    Apex predator, meaning that nothing else preys on them?

    So the humans who kill 100 million sharks per year for food don't count as predators? Nice understanding of ecosystems and predation there, bud!

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    I work offshore on survey ships, up until recently all over Asia for the last 5 years, I see signs of over fishing all everywhere I go. The chinese though are particularly bad as they do not seem to care what damage they do and how they get it as long as they get what they want I am very worried about what the future will bring at this rate of killing.


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