Shark Fin Trade

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(Chinese version here)

The unsustainable demand for shark fin

Although fins on average make up less than 5% of the total body weight of a shark, they are worth the majority of its financial value. Scientists estimate that 25 species of sharks and rays risk going extinct within our lifetime.

Shark fins can fetch up to $650 USD per kilogram. A single Whale Shark pectoral fin can sell for up to $20,000 USD and a Basking Shark pectoral fin can fetch up to $50,000 USD. In comparison, a large percentage of shark meat is undesirable or un-edible (often due to the high urea content), so it has a relatively low commercial value, netting merely $0.85 USD per kilogram. Other shark by-products like cartilage, liver oil and skin drive a very small portion of demand and are marginal in dollar value.

Why sharks are finned alive

While fins are worth their weight in gold to fishermen, the rest of the shark is often not worth the space on the boat. The practice of shark finning however, requires less labour and space than transporting the entire shark to shore for processing. Consequently, the sharks fins are cut off while it’s still alive.

The dismembered body is then quickly discarded over board. Unable to swim and move water through its gills, the shark sinks to the bottom and slowly suffocates, bleeds to death or is eaten by other scavengers. It is unusually cruel treatment for any living animal and is done primarily to feed an unsustainable demand for shark fin soup.