State of the global market for shark products

Dent F, Clarke S (2015) State of the global market for shark products. FAO, Rome, Italy

Even as the total declared value of world trade in shark products approaches USD1 billion traded per year, the state of knowledge of this increasing globalized market remains limited. This technical paper attempts to address some of the remaining information gaps. Specifically, the investigative efforts focus primarily on the available quantitative and qualitative data relating to the key market characteristics of the major traders of shark products and their trading partners. For the purposes of the publication, the world shark trade is most efficiently described in terms of the two most-traded products: shark fins and shark meat. Hence, the report is accordingly divided into two parts. Each individual country section includes a summary of the role and the relative importance of the country or territory in the global market, combined with a description of the specifics of the trade flows between it and its major trading partners, and an analysis of the apparent trends as reflected in trade statistics. Where appropriate, the section dealing with trade is complemented by an analysis of domestic trade and markets within the relevant country or territory. As no in-depth field studies were conducted to gather data specifically for this publication, its focus is necessarily on the existing trade records of the world’s major traders of shark products and, in the case of the domestic trade and market sections, on primarily qualitative information from a variety of sources, compiled with the assistance of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group. This technical paper also attempts to identify specific problems with current trade recording mechanisms, specifically with regard to their suitability for gathering detailed, consistent and accurate data on the trade in shark products. The issues in question, considered to be more widespread and pertinent in the case of shark fins, include missing data, miscoded or aggregated products, and the difficulty of identifying what proportion of traded quantities, or changes in these quantities over time, is the result of double-counting or modification by processing. This state of affairs itself represents an area where more analysis and research are needed in order to assess the appropriateness and effectiveness of current trade recording mechanisms, both for the purpose of describing and analysing the world market for shark-derived products and also for the further purpose of facilitating the monitoring of trade in CITES-listed species. As such, this publication includes, in addition to its market description and analysis component, a country-by-country evaluation of the trade recording systems for shark fins currently in place in major shark markets and producing countries. Where judged necessary, this is combined with an assessment of the likely reliability of the associated data. Finally, this technical paper offers a concise set of expert recommendations directed at international organizations, regional fisheries management bodies, national authorities and the industry itself, each of which seeks to advance the common goal of ensuring the sustainable utilization of shark populations. These recommendations represent practical policy and industry responses to the most important issues and challenges that have arisen from the current knowledge of the state of the global market for shark products, further informed by the findings of this paper.