Shark kills number 100 million annually, research says

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

Related Stories

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.

Follow Matt on Twitter.

 

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
 
 

More Science & Environment stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • Man holding lipWitch hunt

    The country where a blasphemy charge is a death sentence


  • Espresso cupNews quiz

    Which city serves the strongest cup of coffee?


  • Irvine WelshDeaf ears

    Five famous Scots who can't vote in the Scottish referendum


  • Electric chairReturn of 'the chair'

    Five people talk about their roles in Tennessee's execution debate


BBC Future

(BBC)

What animal art looks like

Weird and wonderful creativity in nature Read more...

Programmes

  • A cargo shipThe Travel Show Watch

    It is not cheap or glamorous - so why are people choosing to travel by cargo ship?

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.