I and two top co-authors have written a scientific review paper presenting the reasons why commercial shark fishing cannot be sustainable. This is very important for the protection of sharks, because shark fishing advocates are promoting the shark fin trade. While they are well funded by the fishing industry, so their papers have good accessibility on Open Access, as an individual, I simply lack the resources to pay the fee of $2950 US for the journal Frontiers in Marine Science. So I am appealing to you, as a person who is concerned about the catastrophic depletion of sharks for just one recipe—a bowl of luxury shark fin soup—in just one of the world's cultures.
Our paper is the result of three years of study of the facts as presented by the best scientific research on the status of sharks, the results of decades of factory fishing on both sharks and other fish, the ecological implications, and the underlying economics.
This is a summary:
Fishing records have shown that the shark species accessible to global fisheries have been systematically depleted for decades. They were already fished to about 10 percent of their former levels by 2003. Now one species after another is being listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as their numbers drop towards extinction. Shark depletion has not been well documented and a large proportion of shark mortality has been bycatch, the target species being teleost fish. But with the rise in value of shark fins due to the shark fin trade, at the same time as teleost fish stocks have become severely overfished, sharks, along with tuna, have become the most valuable catches. Fishing on the high seas is scarcely profitable, and so is heavily supported by subsidies. But the shark fin trade, in which organized crime is heavily involved, is driven by enormous profits and provides a powerful demand for the fins of all sharks. Thus it is now being supplied by fisheries around the world. There is no interest in sustainability in consumer countries, and neither the will nor the resources to manage the trade exist. Although some shark fisheries might have been managed sustainably in some regions for certain species for meat, such fisheries are increasingly dependent on the shark fin trade. The rising global demand for shark fins, coupled with the increasing depletion of the animals supplying that demand, makes commercial fishing for sharks unsustainable. Given their high ecological value across the aquatic ecosystems they inhabit, it is important that they receive more effective measures of protection going far beyond the currently existing ones. In particular, protection of all sharks, manta rays, devil rays and rhino rays through an Appendix I CITES listing should be effected immediately due to the scale of the global take of the shark fin trade and the state of shark depletion amply documented in the literature.
Thank you for your consideration, and for supporting our work.
Ila France Porcher
shark ethologist and author