Saturday, March 3, 2012

How many Sharks?

This new video has hit the net. It shows a street in Hong Kong  covered with shark fins. As soon as I saw it, I knew that I had seen this street before. A quick search revealed that I was right. In 2010, Alex Hofford filmed the same street.That video can be seen here.

Fins drying up on a Hong Kong Street. Photo by Alex Hofford.
I am not trying to minimise the importance or the impact of what Gary Stokes has filmed. In fact, it is important that these issues keep coming to light, and the public made aware of them.

When ever something like this makes its way to the media, the question that comes to mind is; How many sharks were killed? It is simply impossible to answer. Whether it is hundreds, thousands or millions we will never know. How can one calculate the numbers?

I tried to do a little experiment with a photo taken from the video released by the  Pew Environment Group shown below.

This is a single shark fin fishery in Taiwan. Taiwan ranks as the 4th largest Shark fin trader in the World.

Shark Fins drying up on a roof in Taiwan.
In this photo I counted 176 "trays" of shark fins. Some contain around 20 fins, others as much as 50 or more. I will play it safe and say that each contains 20 fins. That means that here we have over 3,520 fins. If the fins are left out to dry for a week and replaced, than the total of fins in a year will be over 183,000

Lets imagine that in all of Taiwan there are only 25 traders. This would give a total of 4,576000 per year. Considering the fact that Taiwan is only the 4th largest, than Indonesia, India and Spain are catching much more, but for the sake of my argument... lets say they are all equal. 18,304,000 shark fins in one year!!

What about all the other fleets? Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Costa Rican, South African....... etc.... What are the global figures? No one will ever know the truth. Part of that is because a lot of these catches are illegal and do not get reported to fisheries authorities. 

Now before I get bombarded, keep in mind that my numbers are just guess work and they are just estimates based on one photo and a little info. There is nothing scientific about my totals. My only aim is to show the vast numbers of sharks that are being killed just for soup. Be it 15, 32, 73 or 100 Million makes not much of a difference when a plate of soup is driving sharks to extinction. 


Tropical Selkie said...

Finners take more than one fin per shark. So you may want to divide your total by the average number of fins taken per shark. Calculating 1 fin = 1 shark is likely 'off' even given a touch estimate.

Wolfgang said...

wasupdSpot on, Alex! Glad you started your own blogspot!

Best wishes,


The Sharkman said...

Selkie, I was talking fins not sharks, but yes the normal is 4 fins per shark.

Even with my very rough estimate, 4 to 1 would still be a lot of sharks. Remember I only used a 20 per "tray".

Thanks Wolfie..... glad to be back.