Most Australians would be horrified to know that we participate in the global shark fin trade - but we do. It’s unsustainable, cruel and it has got to stop.
With sharks globally threatened and the shark fin trade identified as a key cause, we need to address the problem of shark finning. We must ban the import and export of shark fin products, to reduce global demand for shark fins, reduce incentives to target endangered sharks in Australian fisheries, and end Australia’s contribution to the decline in shark species.
Shark fishing across the globe is the single biggest threat to shark populations. With estimates of around 100 million sharks killed every year, predominantly for their fins, it’s no wonder that the first ever global analysis of these species carried out by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group has assessed that one quarter of sharks, rays and chimaeras are threatened by extinction.
The international trade in shark fins is widely believed to be responsible for causing the decline in so many shark populations around the world. Australia is complicit in driving our global shark populations closer to extinction by our role in the international shark fin trade
Shark finning in Australia
Live shark finning, the practice of cutting the fins from live sharks and dumping the body, is illegal in all jurisdictions in Australia, thanks largely to AMCS campaigning with the community. However, the legislation differs between various states, the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth. In Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victorian waters, all sharks caught must be brought back to port (‘landed’) with their fins attached to their bodies. In Tasmanian, Western Australian, Northern Territory and Queensland waters, the fins can be cut off at sea, as long as the fishers bring back a ratio of shark fins to shark meat.
This mess makes monitoring whether fishers are complying with shark finning legislation a nightmare.
Until recently it was difficult to get good information on Australia’s shark fin trade. Pressure from AMCS contributed to a decision to improve trade data collection in recent years, though serious question marks remain around reporting and the extent of illegal or unreported trade.
2015 data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows Australia exported 3038 kilograms of shark fin products to Hong Kong. 350 kilograms was also exported to Singapore. Into Australia, 1501 kilograms of shark fins was imported from China, 700 from Hong Kong, 447 from Indonesia, and 690 from the Philippines.
The future of the shark fin trade
Banning the shark finning trade would significantly decrease the amount of sharks taken as byproduct in Australian fisheries, which although not always a ‘target’ species are often deliberately taken due to the value of their fins. Endangered species such as hammerheads are popular targets for shark finning and like all shark populations are highly susceptible to overfishing.
Imports from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Philippines are particularly concerning. These countries do not comprehensively regulate the harvesting of shark fin. This means we don’t know if the shark fin products on sale in Australia are harvested using the cruel methods the shark fin trade has become renowned for.
AMCS is calling in the Australian Government to prohibit the import and export of shark fin products, which would reduce global demand for shark fins and end Australia’s contribution to the decline in shark species.
While Australian trade is only a small fraction of global trade, we have an opportunity to show some leadership that would be greatly appreciated by neighbouring developing countries struggling to assert more effective control over the conservation and sustainable use of their living marine resources..
In order to protect Australia’s diverse range of shark species, AMCS is urging the Australian Government to ban both the import and export of shark fin.