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Blue Shark Numbers Plummet From Shark Fin Soup Demand

Blue Shark Numbers Plummet From Shark Fin Soup Demand

The demand for shark’s fin soup in Asia is very likely the reason for a steep decline in the population of blue sharks (Prionace glauca) off the coasts of the UK and in the Atlantic Ocean. In a recently published paper in the online scientific journal PLoS ONE, scientists describe how they used satellites to trace the movements of 16 blue sharks from south-west England and the coast of Portugal. The scientists discovered that not only did the sharks hunt at greater ocean depths than had been thought, but that the places they tended to frequent are in the same areas as long-line fishing boats. These boats have a “wall of death” of lines with up to 1,000 hooks each, at depths of some 300 to almost 1,000 feet.

Spanish, Portuguese and Tunisian boats catch an estimated 1.1 million blue sharks each year, to sell in Taiwan or Hong Kong where the fins are processed and sold throughout Asia. Demand for shark’s fin soup, considered a delicacy, has grown as income levels in Asia have risen. Blue sharks are thought to be the species most commonly caught. Since the 1980s, their population has decline by 80 percent in some areas, to the point that they are now classified as “near-threatened” on the IUCN Red List.

The PLoS ONE study provides the “strongest evidence” yet that long-line fishing is the reason. Says the study’s lead author, Professor David Sims of the Marine Biological Association in the Guardian:

“The sharks are having to cross a wall of death across the continental shelf edge off the south west of the UK. The fishermen know what they are going to be catching. Due to the reduction of target species such as tuna and swordfish, they have come to rely on blue shark and mako shark to improve the profit from each trip.”

Prof. Sims says that he hopes that information from the new study will be grounds for establishing marine conservation areas; only 1 percent of the 20 species of shark caught in the Atlantic are currently protected, he says. He is also calling for regulatory organizations like the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas to require fishing companies to report what they catch and where.

The sale of shark fin has been banned in California and New York and other states in the US. But such bans clearly need to be not only state by state and country by country, but worldwide. Though by the time any such regulations may be in place, will it be too late for the blue shark?

Related Care2 Coverage

Some Chinese Losing Their Taste For Shark Fin Soup

Yes, Chinese Culture Will Survive Without Shark Fin Soup

First Hybrid Sharks Found off Australia


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Photo from NOAA via Wikimedia Commons

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5:39AM PDT on Apr 5, 2012

thanks for sharing

5:49PM PDT on Apr 1, 2012


7:47AM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

As much as we all know that the US enjoy forcing their values on others you can't force the Asian countries to stop buying and selling shark fins. The way to tackle this problem is to encourage the suppliers to make it harder to get the shark fins, put in stricter rules to do with catching in non-asian waters and limit the amount each boat can catch ect.
I stopped eating shark fin the moment I found out how they were got and on what scale and I've been trying to bring down the trade in Australia ever since.

9:10PM PDT on Mar 22, 2012

Thanks for the article.

6:55PM PDT on Mar 19, 2012

Thank you for the article

6:55PM PDT on Mar 19, 2012

Thank you for the article

6:55PM PDT on Mar 19, 2012

Thank you for the article

6:55PM PDT on Mar 19, 2012

Thank you for the article

6:55PM PDT on Mar 19, 2012

Thank you for the article

6:55PM PDT on Mar 19, 2012

Thank you for the article

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