An open letter concerning the unsustainability of shark finning
White Shark Conservation Trust
29. May 2012
As a conservation organisation, we would like to express our concern about the recent misinformation perpetuated in the national and international media asserting that the shark fin trade is sustainable. The reality is that this vast trade is largely unmanaged and unmonitored, and that the shark fin industry in Asia plays little to no role in fisheries management in the countries that are fishing sharks, including New Zealand. The slow growth and reproductive rates of sharks makes them extremely susceptible to overexploitation. Since only a small fraction of shark-fishing nations have any type of shark management plan in place, the assertion that the fin trade is sustainable is not based in fact.
Despite claims to the contrary by Fisheries Departments worldwide, there is a wealth of scientific evidence that populations of many shark species are in decline, with the shark fin trade being an important driver. There is a solid scientific consensus that many sharks and indeed other cartilaginous fishes, such as skates and rays, are in severe trouble, and there is emerging evidence that this could be causing wider disruptions in ocean ecosystems.
We, the undersigned believe, in the interests of both the global marine environment and the public that depends on healthy ocean ecosystems, that decision makers should be apprised of the full facts of the shark fin issue, most specifically that:
The shark fin trade, as it currently stands, is NOT sustainable. Peer-reviewed scientific research has shown that the fins of tens of millions of sharks passed through the shark fin trade in 2000. Since then there has been no accurate estimation of the trade volume and corresponding number of sharks killed, making it impossible for the industry to state that the trade is sustainable. Declines in shark populations have been reported from many locations worldwide, and many areas – like the Caribbean, for example – are heavily impacted. Individual populations, such as oceanic whitetip sharks in the Gulf of Mexico and hammerheads in the Mediterranean, have experienced severe declines. These statistics are not mere speculation but are backed up by published analyses in academic journals.
Shark fins are by far the most valuable part of the shark, which encourages many fisheries to target them or retain them even when they are caught incidentally, rather than releasing them alive. The shark fin trade should therefore be viewed as a major driver of global shark fishing activities, which are often unmanaged and conducted in an unsustainable manner.
The UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) does NOT adequately protect endangered shark species. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists 82 species of sharks on its Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered. Yet, CITES regulates trade of just three of these threatened shark species. Despite meeting the scientific criteria for listing, numerous shark species have been denied CITES protection because politics prevented them from receiving the two-thirds of the votes necessary for a CITES listing. A larger number of species are considered threatened and are therefore prohibited in particular countries or by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations. CITES tends to lag behind domestic and regional management bodies because of the 2/3 majority requirement and should not therefore be used as the benchmark for whether a species is under threat.
In short, the overwhelming body of scientific data supports the urgent need to focus on adequate conservation and management strategies rather than maintaining unsustainable levels of fishing. Given that sharks play an important role in maintaining the delicate balance of the world’s marine ecosystems, and that many species of sharks are now threatened or near threatened with extinction, there is a rare opportunity to make a significant impact on an issue of global importance by helping to regulate the burgeoning international trade in shark fins.
Yours sincerely,Dr. Gregor Cailllet Director Emeritus, Pacific Shark Research Centre Professor Emeritus, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories Moss Landing, California USA Dr. Jeffrey C. Carrier, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Biology – Albion College American Elasmobranch Society – Past-President Adjunct Research Scientist – Mote Marine Laboratory Albion, Michigan, USA Dr. Demian D.F. Chapman Assistant Professor, School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, USA Dr. William Cheung Assistant Professor, Fisheries Centre, The University of British Columbia, Canada Dr. Philippe Cury IRD Senior Scientist Director Centre de Recherche Halieutique Méditerranéenne et Tropicale Sète, France Dr. Toby S. Daly-Engel Assistant Professor of Marine Biology University of West Florida Pensacola, Florida, USA Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Ph.D. President, Tethys Research Institute Milano, Italy Dr. Michael L. Domeier President Marine Conservation Science Institute, 2809 South Mission Road, Suite G, Fallbrook, CA 92028, USA E. Esat Atikkan, Ph.D. NAUI 6274 Adj. Prof., Biology Adj. Prof., Physical Education Montgomery College Rockville, Maryland, USA Kevin Feldheim, Ph.D. A. Watson Armour III Manager of the Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution Field Museum of Natural History Chicago, Illinois, USA Francesco Ferretti, Ph.D. Hopkins Marine Station Stanford University Pacific Grove, CA, USA Dr. Andrew B. Gill Senior Lecturer Environmental Science and Technology Department Cranfield University Bedfordshire, United Kingdom Eileen D. Grogan, Ph.D. Professor of Biology Research Associate: Carnegie Museum The Academy of Natural Sciences Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Dr. Samuel H. Gruber Director, Bimini Biological Field Station, South Bimini, Bahamas, Founder IUCN Shark Specialist Group, Founder American Elasmobranch Society, Professor Emeritus University of Miami, USA George J. Guillen, Ph.D. Executive Director and Associate Professor Environmental Science and Biology Environmental Institute of Houston University of Houston Clear Lake Houston, Texas, USA Dr. Richard L. Haedrich Professor emeritus, Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, Research Assistant Professor, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy Director, R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program University of Miami, Florida, USA Dr. Michael Heithaus Director, School of Environment, Arts and Society, Florida International University, Miami, Florida, USA Dr. Mauricio Hoyos Padilla Pelagios-Kakunjá A.C. La Paz, B.C.S., México Dr. Robert Hueter Director, Center for Shark Research, Associate Vice President for Research, Directorate of Marine Biology and Conservation, Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, Florida, USA Dr. Charlie Huveneers Lecturer and Research Scientist Flinders University / SARDI – Aquatic Sciences Adelaide, South Australia, Australia Dr. Salvador Jorgensen Research scientist Chief Scientist, White Shark Research Initiative Monterey Bay Aquarium Monterey, California, USA Dr. Stephen M Kajiura Biological Sciences Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, FL, USA Dr. Steven Kessel Post-Doctoral Fellow, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada Vivian Lam IUCN Shark Specialist Group Suite 300, 1630 Connecticut Avenue Washington D.C. 20009 USA Dr. Agnès Le Port Postdoctoral Research Fellow School of Biological Sciences The University of Auckland Auckland, New Zealand Dr. Richard Lund, Research Associate Carnegie Museum of Natural History Saint Joseph’s University Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Dr. John W. Mandelman Research Scientist John H. Prescott Marine Laboratory New England Aquarium Boston, Massachusetts, USA Dr. Mikki McComb-Kobza Postdoctoral Researcher, Ocean Exploration and Deep-Sea Research, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, 5600 U.S. 1 North Fort Pierce, Florida 34946 USA Dr. John E. McCosker Chair of Aquatic Biology California Academy of Sciences San Francisco, California USA Dr. Henry F. Mollet, Research Affiliate MLML R&D Volunteer Husbandry Division Monterey Bay Aquarium Pacific Grove, California, USA Dr, Elliott A. Norse President, Marine Conservation Institute, 2122 112th Avenue NE, Suite B-300, Bellevue WA 98004 USA Dr. Jill A. Olin Post-Doctoral Fellow, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada Dr. Daniel Pauly Professor of Fisheries, Fisheries Centre, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Prof. Ellen K. Pikitch, Ph.D., Executive Director, Institute for Ocean Conservation Science School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5000 Dr. Yvonne Sadovy Professor, School of Biological Sciences, University of Hong Kong, Pok Fu Lam Road, Hong Kong Dr. Carl Safina, Blue Ocean Institute Cold Spring Harbor, New York, USA Dr. Bernard Séret Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle Département Systématique et Evolution C.P. n° 51 55 rue Buffon 75231 Paris cedex 05 France Dr. John Stevens Research Fellow CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research Hobart, Tasmania, Australia Dr. Tracey Sutton Department of Fisheries Science Virginia Institute of Marine Science The College of William & Mary Gloucester Point, VA 23062 USA Dr. Boris Worm Associate Professor, Biology Department, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Source: White Shark Conservation Trust.