11,417. That’s how many sharks are killed by people per hour: around 190 sharks a minute.
A report titled “Global catches, exploitation rates, and rebuilding options for sharks” finds that based on an estimated total global biomass, this accounts for between 6.4% and 7.9% of all sharks killed per year.
They are not killed because of shark attacks or to be used in fish and chips – flake is the most popular fish battered in Australia – but simply for their fins, while the rest of the animal is dumped in the sea.
Despite being considered a “keystone species” – where as the top predators, they are vital in maintaining the balance in marine ecosystem – the global finning industry remains, edging many species closer and closer to extinction with 64 species listed as endangered.
And that includes Australia.
According to information provided to The Australian Marine Conservation Society from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, in the 2011-2012 financial year Australia exported a minimum of 178 tonnes of shark fin to Hong Kong, the Philippines and Singapore.
However, Australia’s fishing laws are among the strictest in the world.
Business Insider spoke to Matthew Evans, the former chef and restaurant critic turned Tasmanian farmer behind the SBS TV series What’s The Catch?, about Australia’s seafood for more on the issue.
“Finning a worldwide problem… but there are strict rules in Australia,” says Evans.
“You can’t live fish in Australia, which means cutting the fin of the shark without killing it and then dumping it in the water, and you can’t separate the fins from the sharks, so that you can identify which species the fin is from.
“A part from a few species, such as the school shark, the fins are taken from sharks that aren’t overfished.
“What this is ensure is hat the right species are taken. Yes sharks play a part in the food chain as the predator but they aren’t always a part of it,” he said explaining that some sharks are small enough to be eaten by larger fish.
“The problem in Australia is the labeling of the fins. They get mixed in with other species from other fisheries when they are sold and when you buy them you can’t identify where it comes from, whether they have been caught illegally or not.”
There are 30 countries and jurisdictions currently with full or partial bans on shark finning. The list is here.
But many countries have been reluctant to bring in such bans because of the revenue the trade generates.
In fact, the shark fin business is worth an estimated $475 million a year.
The trade is driven by wealthy Chinese buyers who serve the fins in soup. The dish not only is a cultural symbol of the wealth, but it’s also a sign of respect if you are served it as a guests.
And it’s not cheap.
According to The Australian Marine Conservation Society a single fin can cost up to $1,000 in Sydney’s Chinatown – that’s one expensive soup.
But studies have shown that sharks are worth more alive than they are dead.
According to researcher Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor, the international shark ecotourism industry generates $314 million per year, and is a particularly affluent source of revenue for the Caribbean and Australia – and it’s only expected to grow.
“That figure is projected to double to over $700 million per year within the next 20 years,” he told LiveScience.
Just to put the size of the international finning industry into perspective for you, this incredible infographic by Stop Shark Finning shows how many sharks are killed by people every hour.
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