- In Australia, we import and export shark fins.
- As there are currently no labelling requirements for shark fins, we cannot be sure what species of shark the fins come from or how they were caught.
What’s the Catch?
- Sharks are generally slow growing and slow to reproduce. This means that they are susceptible to overfishing, as their stocks are slow to recover.
- Shark populations worldwide are in decline, mostly due to overfishing. A third of the world’s pelagic sharks and rays (living in open waters or near the water’s surface) are threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- There are 180 species of shark found in Australia, eight of which are listed as threatened species under the Australian Government EPBC Act.
- The global trade in shark fins, in which Australia participates, is believed to have a large hand in the worldwide decline in shark populations. The fins of sharks and shark-like rays are a delicacy in some Asian countries and hold symbolic value. The global market is largely unmonitored and unregulated, and half of the 69 most sought after sharks and rays in the global fin trade are threatened (Dulvy et al 2014).
- In Australia, shark fins are obtained from sharks that are caught sustainably for food, but by selling the fins on the global market, we are participating in an often-unregulated global fin trade.
- Shark fins have become one of the most valuable seafood commodities: it is estimated that the fins of between 26 and 73 million individual sharks, worth US$400-550 million, are traded globally each year (Dulvy et al 2014).
- Data on shark fin imports and exports in Australia is difficult to obtain. According to information obtained from the government by the AMCS (Australian Marine Conservation Society), Australia exported 178 tonnes of shark fin to Hong Kong, the Phillippines and Singapore in 2012.
- According to the AMCS, in Australia, appetite for shark fin can drive prices up to $700 per kg for dried, skinless shark fin. The bigger the fin the more expensive it is. This is in direct contrast to shark meat, which can sell for as little as $0.80 per kg.
- ‘Live finning’ is a practice where sharks are caught, have their fins removed and are then thrown back into the ocean alive where they can take days to die. This practice is now banned throughout Australia, however internationally it is still known to occur. By importing shark fins we cannot be sure how they were caught, or whether those fins came from threatened species of shark.
What’s the Solution?
- The Australian Marine Conservation Society is calling for a ban on both the import and export of shark fins in Australia. Greenpeace Australia Pacific supports a ban on importing shark fins.
- Other seafood used for special occasions are more sustainable, like oysters. Hand-collected Tasmanian scallops are also a good choice.
- Oysters, and also mussels, are farmed on longlines and racks, which cause minimal damage to the surrounding marine environment. As filter feeders, they feed by cleaning the water they are grown in and they do not require additional feed from farmers.
- The Australian Marine Conservation Society lists farmed oysters and mussels from Australia as a better choice.
What's the Recipe
- Australian Marine Conservation Society on shark finning
- Department of Agriculture, Forestries and Fisheries on sharks
- IUCN report: A quarter of sharks and rays threatened with extinction
- IUCN report on the Conservation Status of Pelagic Sharks and Rays
- ‘Extinction risk and conservation of the world’s sharks and rays’ (Dulvy et al, 2014)
- Australian Marine Conservation Society on farmed oysters
- Australian Marine Conservation Society on farmed mussels
- Blue mussels produced by Spring Bay Mussels in Tasmania have been certified as a sustainable product by Friend Of The Sea
- Blue mussels farmed by Sea Bounty Pty Ltd in Corio Bay, VIC have been assessed as a sustainable product by the Australian Conservation Foundation's Victorian Sustainable Seafood Assessment Project
What's the Catch premieres 8.30pm Thursday 30 October on SBS ONE.
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