Just four countries are responsible for catching half of all recorded shark and ray landings a year according to a TRAFFIC Wildlife Monitoring report.
Together Indonesia, Spain, Mexico and USA catch an average 334,000 tonnes, double the number of the next 16 fishing countries combined.
In total the world’s top 20 shark and ray catchers and traders – including France, Portugal and the UK – account for 80% of global reported catch every year.
The main importers of shark and ray meat were Brazil, Spain, Uruguay, and Italy, which accounted for 57% of the average global imports of shark meat over the past decade.
Elsewhere in the world the four largest importers of shark fin accounted for 90% of average annual global imports of fins during the same period. Hong Kong was the largest, importing an average of 9,069 tonnes of shark fin a year over this period, followed by Malaysia (average 2,556 tonnes/year), mainland China (1,868 tonnes/year), and Singapore (1,587 tonnes/year).
Campaign director for Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation, Graham Buckingham, said: “These shocking statistics reflect the marine gold rush for sharks that’s happening right now. Shark fins are one of the most valuable seafood products in the world and the race is on to catch them. The problem for the oceans and the planet is that shark populations simply can’t keep up. And an ocean without sharks could dramatically affect the air we breathe and the food we eat.”
One in four shark species are listed as threatened and some experts predict that, unless catch rates are reduced, 20 species of sharks could be extinct by 2048.
In the UK Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation has successfully campaigned for ASDA, Holland & Barrett, Iceland Foods and Wagammama to drop shark products and inspired 53 Chinese restaurants to remove shark fin soup from menus.