Shark fin traders back restrictions on hammerheads

Note: Hong Kong’s shark fin trade merchants seem to be open to restricting sales of hammerhead fins and adding the species to others like Great Whites and Whale Sharks. Still, the association’s head in Hong Kong states that he hasn’t seen any shortage! Outright falsehood.

Cheung Chi-fai and Agence France-Presse
Updated on Dec 02, 2009

Local shark fin merchants would not oppose restricting the international trade of the scalloped hammerhead shark, after a study found that Hong Kong consumers were the impetus behind the harvesting of sharks as far away as the western Atlantic.The study, conducted by scientists from Stony Brook University’s Institute for Ocean Conservation Science in the US, soon to be published, used DNA testing to trace shark fin samples bought in Hong Kong.

It matched the DNA of 57 out of 62 samples with a genetic database of the scalloped hammerhead, and found that 21 per cent of them came from the western Atlantic.

“Our work shows that the scalloped hammerhead fin trade is sourced from all over the globe, and so must be globally tracked and managed,” said the institute’s Dr Demian Chapman, a lead author of the research. The study’s forensic testing, applied on sharks for the first time, is thought to be a useful tool to prioritise areas for conservation, and ensure that sharks are not wiped out in particular regions.

The findings have reinforced calls for trade restrictions for sharks threatened by overfishing for their fins and meat.

The US has already proposed enlisting six shark species, including the scalloped hammerhead, with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, at a meeting to be held in Doha in March. Under the convention, the great white, basking and whale sharks have already come under trade restrictions.

Chiu Ching-cheung, a representative of Hong Kong shark fin merchants, said that since the scalloped hammerhead was not popular, merchants would not oppose trade restrictions. “It is not going to have much impact, as they are infrequently consumed in local banquets,” said Chiu, vice-chairman of the Shark Fin Trade Merchants Association. Chiu said that hammerhead fins mostly originated from Central or South American waters, but there were also supplies from Australia. “Its market share is less than 5 per cent, far less than the 80 per cent of the blue shark,” he said.

He said he had never heard of a shortage of the species, the fins of which are sold at HK$800 to HK$2,000 per 500 grams.

Dr Guillermo Moreno, head of the marine programme at WWF Hong Kong, said the study indicated that fishermen were moving farther afield for shark fin harvesting, after the stock in Asia was exhausted.

“The stock of this shark species has been heavily fished in Southeast Asia, and the fishing fleets have been moving around for the remaining stock,” he said.

Quoting a 2007 study by shark specialists at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Moreno said that up to 2.7 million of three species of hammerhead sharks were killed for their fins each year. The group has asked 57 corporations and hotels to stop serving shark fin.



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