Thesis: The magnitude and global distribution of the shark fin trade

Published in September 2012

Using shark catch data to estimate the magnitude and global distribution of the shark fin trade

Leah Elisabeth Biery


China’s economic growth in recent years has led to a rapid increase in shark fin soup consumption, fueling the demand for shark fins and encouraging fishers worldwide to engage in shark finning. Such practices have led to the overfishing and biomass decline of numerous shark species. Globally, shark catches are poorly reported both quantitatively and taxonomically, and legislation to protect sharks is insufficient. Additionally, data on the international trade of shark fins and other shark products are sparse and, when available, lack descriptive details, making effective shark fishery management challenging. In this thesis, shark-related legislation is reviewed on a global scale, and the legitimacy of the 5% wet fin to body weight ratio commonly specified in legislation is examined through an analysis of 50 species-specific wet fin to body weight ratios. Official FAO shark catch statistics were supplemented with outside information, and Best Catch Estimates (BCEs) of mean yearly shark catches were calculated for each EEZ between the years 2000 and 2009. Missing values for EEZs and the High Seas were estimated. Appropriate conversion factors were applied to BCEs to estimate the total weight of dry fins traded yearly. Results indicate that both legislation and official FAO shark catch statistics are inadequate and improved regulation, data collection, and monitoring of shark fisheries is necessary on a global scale.

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science.
The University of British Columbia




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