Hong Kong is responsible for approximately 50% of the worlds shark fin imports, annually importing about 5,000 tonnes. Despite there being over 400 shark species many of which are threatened according the IUCN Red List, only 14 shark species are regulated in trade. This relies on the implementation of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which in turn relies on enforcement authorities’ ability to differentiate fins of regulated (listed) species from unregulated.
Only fins larger than 10 cm at the base are visually distinguishable with a high degree of confidence, and therefore, large fins are the only shark products that are commonly reported/declared by species and get routinely examined by Customs authorities worldwide. Available estimates of globally traded shark fin volumes have been based on auction records of large fins. However, containers of dried-unprocessed fins holding large numbers of sacks with tens of thousands of small fins (some of which will be juvenile fins of regulated species) (<10 cm at the base) that usually are not reported/declared by species, do not get inspected by Customs authorities, and for which virtually no species-specific trade data exist.
ADMCF is supporting research by the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, and Fundación Colombia Azul, to assess the juvenile shark fin trade based on fins collected from the Hong Kong’s retail fin markets. This involves: (i) assessment of species composition and proportion of the smallest size classes of juvenile sharks in trade; (ii) assessment of the relative importance of CITES-listed species in the smallest size classes; and (iii) determination of the population of origin to highlight the geographical regions where nursery areas are potentially more vulnerable and prioritize their protection. The findings will be used to inform policy recommendations regarding Hong Kong’s shark fin trade.
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