Exploding Asian demand for shark fin soup has slashed worldwide shark populations, and global regulation is the best way to save eight species now under pressure, ocean conservationists reported on Monday.
Eight types of sharks — oceanic whitetip, dusky, sandbar, spurdog, porbeagle, scalloped, smooth and great hammerhead — should be regulated under the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a marine expert at the Washington-based group Oceana said.
"The demand for the shark fin is so high, they’re being taken out of the water faster than they can reproduce in the water to sustain their population," according to Rebecca Greenberg, co-author of an Oceana report released at a U.N. CITES meeting on endangered species being held March 2010 in Doha, Qatar.
Sharks are under particular pressure because of the growing Chinese appetite for shark fin soup, traditionally a symbol of power and prestige that was formerly reserved for the wealthy but which are now within reach of the growing Asian middle class because of improved fishing and processing techniques.
A bowl of shark fin soup can cost $100, and a single fin can be worth $1,300.
Up to 22 million pounds (10 million kg) of shark fins are exported annually to Hong Kong by 87 countries, the Oceana report said.
While not seeking a ban on the trade of shark fins, Oceana wants to limit international commerce in this commodity so that the only fins that can be traded and sold internationally are from sustainable shark populations.
Representatives of 175 countries are convened at the CITES meeting in Doha.