A field investigation by UK charity Shark Guardian has revealed the alarming extent of the illegal shark-fin trade in Taiwan.
Conducted between December 2020 and March 2021, the investigation obtained documentary evidence that fins from endangered shark species were being openly offered for sale in the Taiwanese fishing port of Kaohsiung, and by online shark fin traders.
Of the 13 shark fin processing and trading companies visited by Shark Guardian’s investigators, more than half were found to be trading in fins prohibited by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Seven of the traders were found to have shark fins from CITES Appendix II-listed species as part of their product range, including silky, oceanic whitetip, mako, thresher and great white sharks.
Trading in CITES-listed species contravenes both Taiwanese and international law. However, according to the report, a spokesperson for one of the traders said that ‘there is no difference in selling protected or unprotected species. Protected sharks’ products usually create a problem for international shipping only.’
Key points of the complete report, which can be downloaded from Shark Guardian for free, include:
- List of endangered species found by Shark Guardian researchers in Taiwan shark fin processing and trade
- Overall mapping of the Taiwanese shark fin industry
- Supply chain types for shark fin business operations in Taiwan
- Taiwanese shark fin processing and trading companies selling endangered sharks
- Survey of shark fins from CITES-listed species sold online
Over the three-month period during which the investigation was conducted, Shark Guardian’s investigators witnessed ‘multiple shipments of shark fins from endangered species being unloaded’ at Donggang fish market, in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung. Shark Guardian also reportedly found evidence of Taiwan-based online retailers selling fins of endangered species of shark, a practice which is also in contravention of local and international law.
Alex Hofford, Marine Wildlife Campaigner with Shark Guardian, said ‘To save sharks and the marine environment, Taiwanese authorities should implement an immediate crackdown on its cruel and unsustainable shark fin trade, and should tighten up local laws to ban the domestic sale of shark fin as well as better enforce its international obligations under CITES.
‘It is also high time that the Taiwanese government should rein in its out-of-control distant water tuna fishing fleet,’ Hofford continued, ‘who are a major supplier shark fin to Chinese markets. Whilst Taiwan is a beacon of democratic and progressive values in Asia, it is allowing its unsustainable and often crime-ridden fisheries sector to rape and pillage our ocean with impunity.
‘This must stop,’ said Hofford. ‘Taiwan needs to show leadership in environmental protection and must quickly clean up its act as regards its sleazy shark fisheries and trade sectors.’
According to WWF, a third of all sharks and rays are threatened with extinction, yet fishing and trading in unsustainable shark fins remain a highly profitable, but environmentally destructive, enterprise for Taiwanese companies operating out of Kaohsiung. A July 2021 report from WWF also found that the trade in shark and ray meat is even more valuable than the trade in fins.
Brendon Sing, Co-Director of Shark Guardian said, ‘Clearly more must be done to protect sharks globally. There are over 500 known shark species with only a handful of them listed under CITES. Even then, CITES listed sharks are still traded illegally where monitoring and enforcement lack any power and expose loopholes in the system. As long as this continues, there is no real protection for any shark species regardless of CITES listing or not. Taiwan must be responsible and take positive action in response to this report.’
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