It’s Not Just Shark Fins; Trade In Shark Meat Is Up 42%

Last month, Care2 members witnessed a huge victory when almost 180,000 members signed a petition demanding that UPS stop shipping shark fins.

UPS listened; the company had a conversation with the World Wildlife Fund and subsequently tweeted that it was banning the shipment of shark fins.

This was an awesome success, but as petition author Chris Maddeford wrote in his petition, “Shark populations are declining around the globe, with over 140 species of sharks listed as endangered, threatened, or near threatened by extinction.”¯

Now a new report from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) finds that the market for shark meat increased a horrific 42 percent between 2000 and 2010.

“We had a sense that the shark meat trade was increasing,” said one of the report’s authors, Shelley Clarke of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. “The magnitude of the increase and the extent to which it is concentrated in Brazil for shark meat, and Korea for skate and ray meat, were striking.”

According to the report, the total value of the worldwide trade in shark meat and fins is nearly $1 billion.

“These species are in global crisis,”¯ said Luke Warwick, acting director of the global shark conservation campaign for The Pew Charitable Trusts, which was not affiliated with the study. “Because sharks grow slowly, mature late, and bear few young, they can’t recover from depleted populations quickly enough, especially if they continue to be killed at a rate of about 100 million, year after year.”

All About Sharks

Sharks, skates and rays are all Elasmobranchs, which are a subclass of Chondrichthyes, or cartilaginous fishes. This means they have a skeleton made of cartilage, rather than bone. 

Their population is declining rapidly, making them endangered, largely due to overfishing and getting caught in fishing gear. Some species have lost 99 percent of their population. As apex predators, they are at the top of the food chain; without them, the entire food chain is affected.

Ironically, the same laws that were intended to help sharks by reducing the shark fin trade could also be increasing the trade in shark meat. That’s because these laws now encourage using the entire shark instead of chopping off its fins and throwing the rest back into the ocean. In fact, the report suggests that the anti-finning regulations are specifically responsible for a “considerable”¯ expansion in the market. Interestingly, the report reveals that the market for shark fins is quite different from the market for shark meat.

Saving Sharks And Their Relatives

Since most nations don’t keep statistics on specific shark species, it’s hard to know exactly which sharks are most threatened. A first step, which FAO is advocating, would be to require countries to keep more accurate data.

Even worse, a lack of standards means that a box labelled “shark meat” could contain parts from any shark species, whether dried, frozen or fresh. In the worst case scenario, shark products don’t even merit a unique name; instead, they are labeled as “unidentified fish.”

Some action has already been taken: last year the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species protected five shark species and all related manta rays. In addition, ten new shark sanctuaries have recently been established.

But most regulation doesn’t cover shark’s close relatives, the rays and skates, which comprise 75 percent of the U.S. catch of this family. According to Sonja Fordham, president of the nonprofit Shark Advocates International it is “legal and commonplace” to cut the wings off of live rays and skates. These fish “are being fished as heavily, and are more threatened and much less protected,” she added.

Clearly, in order to conserve all members of the shark family, these fish need to be covered by any new legislation and, most importantly, labels must be species-specific, and data collection needs to improve. These are some of the goals of the FAO report; with the increase of detailed data will come the ability to track the trade in shark meat more efficiently.

Hopefully, this will happen sooner rather than later, while there is still time to save the world’s sharks.



Mark Donner
Mark Donner1 years ago

Who exactly are these human monsters who do these atrocities. I'd like to see their ugly guilty faces posted somewhere, instead of some statement that 99% of sharks are again. It's not a faceless group, it boils down to specific individuals both the perpetrators and the crooked politicians who enable their crimes, who are the guilty parties. And those individuals must be hunted down and stopped. It would be like saying "there's a lot of serial killing going on", but never pinpointing the guilty parties.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Rose-Marie Grobbelaar

Humans, which are really nothing more than savages, will eat themselves to extinction. They will eat and destroy every living thing on earth till there is nothing left. And the earth will be barren. And because humans are breeding uncontrollably, they will eat each other as there will be enough of them. Cannibilism is nothing new.

Miriam AWAY S2 years ago

Thanks very much for sharing! Yes, I agree, shark meat should be banned!

Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaege2 years ago

Thank you for sharing. Shark meat should be banned, anyway.

Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell2 years ago

Thank you

Nimue Pendragon

Stop eating sharks now. Watch "Sharkwater' and learn why sharks are crucial to the survival of the human species. We MUST protect all sharks. STOP THE KILLING NOW!

Nimue Pendragon

Stop eating sharks. Now. Protect them. They are saving humanity. Watch "Sharkwater" and learn why sharks are crucial to not only the environment and the sea, but to our survival. They MUST be protected at all cost.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H2 years ago

Natasha I don't think there is anything humans won't eat. I say that after being stuck in the same room with the TV on with what's-his-name going from country to country eating the most disgusting, gross, vile things imaginable and then saying how yummy it is you have to try it. So unfortunately, I think shark is pretty mild on their list.

I think the push for shark fin ban has now made the whole shark more appetizing. Did we win the battle but lose the war?

Danuta Watola
Danuta W2 years ago

Thanks so much for sharing!