New study shows banning shark fin in the U.S. won’t help save sharks

September 28, 2017
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A new study published today in the scientific journal Marine Policy shows that banning the sale of shark fins within the United States can actually harm ongoing shark conservation efforts.

David Shiffman of SFU’s Earth2Ocean research group and Robert Hueter from the Center for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida say that a proposed nationwide ban on shark fin sales within the United States is a misguided and ineffective approach to protecting sharks.

“Banning the sale of shark fins would not make it illegal to catch and kill sharks in the United States. It would only regulate how the parts of dead sharks can be used,” says Shiffman.

He says the population decline of sharks has been almost entirely driven by overfishing. However, the U.S. has played a leadership role in promoting sustainable shark fisheries around the world. Those fisheries are comparatively well-managed, using catch quotas based on species’ population status, closed areas and closed seasons and stricter protections for more threatened species.”

Shiffman says that policies that seek to ban the sale of shark fins would perpetuate the misconception that the shark fin trade is the only threat facing sharks.

“In fact, shark fins make up less than a third of the value of total shark meat sales,” he says.

The authors also warn that withdrawing U.S.-supplied shark fins from the market would open the door to increased market share for IUU (illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing) and shark fishing from nations not practicing sustainable shark fishing.

Finally, the team’s research shows that a U.S. ban on the sale of shark fins would likely not result in a significant reduction in global shark mortality.

“The United States exports and imports less than one per cent of the global fin trade,” Shiffman notes.

Shiffman and Hueter are not alone in advocating for sustainable shark fisheries over a ban on the sale of shark products. Shiffman’s previous research found 90 per cent of surveyed members of scientific research societies focusing on sharks and rays prefer to promote a sustainable shark fishery.

According to their research, removing the U.S. model of a sustainably managed shark fishery from the global marketplace eliminates an important template for other global fisheries to follow, while harming rule-following U.S. fishermen.