Use of shark fin trade data to estimate historic total shark removals in the Atlantic Ocean
In order to address critical gaps arising from limited available data on historic shark catches in the Atlantic Ocean, a method was developed to estimate shark removals using shark fin trade data. A characterization of the global fin trade as of 2000, including number and biomass by shark species, was used as the basis of the methodology. A first step involved scaling Hong Kong trade-derived estimates for 2000 to annual global values for 1980-2006 based on the observed quantity of imports to Hong Kong and an approximation of Hong Kong's share of the global trade in each year. The resulting global fin trade figures for each year were then scaled to Atlantic-specific values using three different factors: (1) area of the Atlantic range relative to the global range of pelagic sharks; (2) Atlantic catches of tunas and billfishes relative to global catches of tunas and billfishes; and (3) Atlantic longline effort relative to global longline effort. The strengths and weaknesses of each scaling factor and the assumptions inherent in the methodology are discussed. These estimates are not intended to replace reliable fisheries dependent catch data compiled by ICCAT from submissions of members and cooperators, but can serve as one of a variety of useful cross-validation tools when historic catch data are missing or uncertain.