Excerpt from our book:
"Räuber, Monster, Menschenfresser",
99 Unwahrheiten über Haie
published in Kosmos Verlag, Stuttgart
Reading the reports of shark and nature protection organisations, one starts to wonder. Greenpeace speaks of at least 100 million animals killed per year. The WWF concurs, but also says that this number is the estimate including all human influence, including bycatch. The English shark protection organisation Shark Trust speaks of up to 73 million sharks killed for finning alone (targeted hunt for fins). The international shark protection initiative SHARKPROJECT speaks of approx. 200 million animals killed around the world each year.
Who has the right of it?
Well, all of them – in a way at least! To understand this, we first need to accept that there are no truly reliable figures here. All of this is based on numbers published by the (FAO = Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) in their annual fishing statistics. Up to 700,000 tons of shark are brought to land each year according to these statistics. At an average weight of 15 kg for a caught shark, this would amount to about 50 million animals. The FAO collets these figures from the affiliated fishing nations.
These answers are given voluntarily and not verified. (How could they be?). Add to this unreported bycatch that is thrown over board again at once, and extensive piracy. The sum of the reported figures is therefore questionable, and the FAO itself estimates the actual figures to be double that and speaks of 100 million sharks probably being caught around the world. This figure is generally accepted, since it comes from the United Nations, and is used by most shark protection organisations.
This figure is bad enough, since it means that 273,973 sharks are killed on our planet each day. But this is not the end. Let us take the figures of SHARK TRUST, speaking of up to 73 million sharks falling prey to the targeted hunt for fins alone. This would be 73% of the complete figure. Unlikely, since although finning is a serious problem for the survival of sharks and experiencing a global boom, this ratio would be too high at the moment.
How does SHARK TRUST reach these figures? Like the international shark protection initiative SHARKPROJECT, they refer to the study of scientist Shelley Clarke, published in 2006. She studied the trade of shark fins in Hong Kong for two years under the cover of writing her doctoral thesis on sharks. She gained the trust of shark traders, was allowed to take insight into protocols and was able to examine the fins. Her study told that most probably 3-4 times as many sharks are the FAO’s figures indicate are killed per year. That means that only a quarter or third of the sharks killed is even recorded or reported.
This would be about 2.4 million tons of shark meat per year. Additionally, the sharks caught grow smaller and smaller, so that an average of 12.5 instead of 15 kg is more realistic today. This results in exactly 200.000,000 sharks. Included in this figure is an estimated 26-73 million sharks dying only for finning. (The difference in numbers corresponds to the ratio of fin to body. Considering that most fins are dried before transport and therefore lose 90% of their weight, the 5% this calculation is based on no longer work anyway, so that the figures rise again. When all of these facts are taken together, we remain with the bitter insight that the figure of 200 million sharks killed is probably realistic. That would be 547,945 animals per day or 22,831 per hour. And whether or not the figure is right to the last digit, or whether they should be a bit higher or lower – we still have only a minute to midnight if we want to be able to rescue the shark.