If you’re a long-time reader of shark-related articles, you’ve probably heard it more than once: sharks are in trouble. More than one-third of the world’s shark and ray species are now threatened with extinction, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced last year in its latest update to its Red List of Threatened Species. And while recent research highlights some species living in areas exposed to high urbanization, sharks living close to our coastlines may be most at risk and of greatest conservation concern.
The threats don’t stop there. Research supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Pew Fellowship Program, the Rowe Foundation and the Shark Conservation Fund found that more than 70% of shark species that end up in the global fin trade are at risk of extinction. Florida International University (FIU) postdoctoral researcher Dr. Led by Diego Cardenosa, a team of international scientists from the United States and Hong Kong collected 9,820 samples of shark fin trimmings from markets in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is the center of the lucrative shark fin trade as the largest shark fin trading center in the world. Through DNA analysis, the team was able to determine which fins belonged to which species of shark and found 86 different species. Kick? Well, 61 of them are endangered.
“The fact that we’re finding so many species threatened with extinction in the global shark fin trade is a warning sign that tells us that international trade can be a major driver of unsustainable fishing,” Cardenosa said in a press release. Although the most common species that end up in the fin trade are open ocean or pelagic sharks, the largest number of species in the trade are those that live in coastal areas such as black tip (Carcharhinus limbatus), twilight (c. Obscure), spinner (c. Brevipinna), and sandbar sharks (c. Plumbius) published letter of reservation, the study is the latest to emerge from a decade-long effort to track and monitor the global shark fin trade. Dr. Damian Chapman, associate professor at FIU and director of shark and ray conservation research at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, led the team, including Cardenosa; The scientists tested DNA on about 10,000 small scraps taken from processed imported fins sold in Asian markets, particularly markets in Hong Kong and southern China.
“[This] The project is in collaboration with Bloom Association Hong Kong and Kaduri Farm and Botanic Garden,” the scientists explained. “The team’s goal is to better understand which species are in trade and how common they are. By tracking it over time, they will be able to inform decision-makers about how well different management systems are working.” Researchers warn that without management, many of these species could become extinct. Three coastal species are already considered extinct – in all countries. which do not regulate shark fishing – which is why the group is adamant that these animals be listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES is a global agreement between governments to regulate or prohibit international trade in threatened species. And it is known as “one of the cornerstones of international conservation.” With more than 35,000 species regulated among their 183 member groups, representatives of CITES countries meet every two to three years to review progress and adjust lists of protected species. 19m CITES’ side conference meets in November and the group hopes the study will provide key evidence for the body’s deliberations, bringing the plight of coastal sharks to the attention of governments and representing only a small percentage of the overall trade. Shark fins are currently regulated under the Convention.
“At the upcoming CITES CoP19, governments have made proposals that would bring most sharks traded for their fins under the Convention’s sustainability controls,” said Luke Warwick, director of shark and ray conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society, co-author of CITES. And encourage watching to match the threat level seen for rays.”
Cardiosa agrees with Warwick, highlighting that international trade rules will have a direct impact on the future of these animals when it is such a big threat to so many species. “Our results highlight high levels of international trade and clear management gaps for coastal species. Many are in the highest extinction risk category. The next section is elimination. We cannot allow this to happen,” Cardenosa said. As November inches closer, the team hopes international trade in coastal shark species is on the agenda of CITES delegates this year, suggesting it could be the first step in creating a framework for increased investment in low-capacity countries that is critical to the long-term survival of these marine predators. Introduction