7 Oct 2014 - 11:24 AM  UPDATED 7 Oct 2014 - 1:55 PM

What species?

  • 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. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources records that 1/3 of all open ocean shark species are threatened with extinction, with many others at risk, primarily due to overfishing.
  • There are currently 13 species of shark protected by legislation in Australian waters.
  • The international trade in shark fins, which Australia participates in, is believed to have a large hand in the worldwide decline in shark populations.
  • There is no single set of data that records the exact amount of shark fins imported and exported in Australia due to poor record keeping by the Australian Government. As a result, accurate figures are difficult to ascertain.
  • The Australian Marine Conservation Society claims that via a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestries, who were not willing to voluntarily share the information, they were able to calculate that in 2012 Australia exported 178 tonnes of shark fins to Hong Kong, the Philippines and Singapore. 
  • This equates to millions of sharks and roughly 13,300 tonnes of shark meat.
  • 95% of the fins are consumed in Asia, where they are sold for a high price as they are eaten in ‘Shark Fin Soup’ at weddings and banquets and other special occasions. 
  • In Australia, prices can reach 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 in to ocean alive where they can take days to die.
  • This practice is now banned in Australia, however, by importing shark fins we cannot be sure how they were caught and as a result we could be supporting this practice in other countries, such as India and Indonesia.
  • Finless sharks have also been found in recent years in Australian waters. This fact, combined with the poor data records surrounding the shark fin trade, suggests that the practice may still be used in some areas of Australia.

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.
  • Farmed Australian Oysters and Mussels are a sustainable option, which can be used for special occasions.
  • Farmed oysters and mussels are grown in bays and inlets around Australia.
  • They are filter feeders, which means they do not generate waste or need any feed added as they feed by cleaning the water they are grown in.
  • The Australian Marine Conservation Society lists farmed oysters and mussels from Australia as a better choice.

What's the recipe?

Mussel paella

More information

  • Australian Marine Conservation Society on shark finning 
  • Department of Agriculture, Forestries and Fisheries on sharks
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources on sharks 
  • 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’ 

Infographic

View our Shark Fins infographic