Posted on 14 March 2024
Oceanic whitetip shark
© naturepl.com/Doug Perrine/WWF-Canon
TRAFFIC and WWF-India highlight illegal shark trade
New analysis by TRAFFIC and WWF-India found that almost 16,000 kg of shark fins were seized between January 2010 to December 2022. They constituted the most common shark-derived product seized, reported in over 80% of the seizures. Significant volumes of shark cartilage and teeth were also seized.
"Netted in illegal wildlife trade: Sharks of India", a new Factsheet released today aims to sound the alarm about India's illegal shark trade and highlight ongoing threats and conservation concerns. 
Tamil Nadu accounted for nearly 65% of the shark seizure incidents, followed by other states such as Karnataka, Gujarat, Kerala, and Maharashtra. The confiscated products were destined for Singapore, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Sri Lanka, and mainland China.
"The demand for shark fins and meat is a major driver of the global shark fishery. Shark fins are the most sought-after shark product used to make 'shark-fin soup,' a delicacy", said Dr Merwyn Fernandes, Associate Director of TRAFFIC's India Office.

"Other shark products are also in demand, albeit to a lesser extent. Shark's meat is consumed as food; skin as leather; liver oil (squalene) as a lubricant, in cosmetics and as a source of vitamin A; cartilages for chondroitin sulphate extraction in the preparation of medicines and jaws and teeth for making curios", he further added.  
Sharks are crucial to our ecosystem. Being top predators in the oceanic food web, sharks prey on various species, including plankton, fish, crustaceans and marine mammals. Overfishing, coupled with low biological productivity, puts them at a higher risk of extinction when compared to most other vertebrates.

Of 160 shark species reported in India, only 26 sharks and rays have been given the highest protection status under the amended Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972 by listing them in Schedules I and II.
Species in Appendix I and II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) have been listed in Schedule IV of the Act. 
Dr Dipankar Ghose, Senior Director of Biodiversity Conservation, WWF-India, and Interim Head of TRAFFIC's India Office, added, "Illegal shark trade is a serious conservation threat to sharks not just in India but globally. Misdeclaring relevant species on permits is one of the main ways sharks are traded illegally worldwide. The lack of capacity to identify the shark fins against numerous potential shark species in trade is a significant gap in curbing their illicit trade. Insufficient monitoring mechanisms further make it challenging to differentiate between legal and illegal trade of sharks".

To help law enforcement officials such as Customs identify dried and unprocessed fins, TRAFFIC has created 3D-printed and painted replica fins. Last year, these were shared with the concerned enforcement agencies in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka by TRAFFIC's India Office.
TRAFFIC has also published a new 3D Shark Fin Identification Guidebook on 11 commercially traded shark and ray species based on physical characteristics to supplement the use of the 3D shark fins.
These 11 fins are of shark and ray species listed in Appendix II of CITES. The Guidebook can be used independently or with 3D replica shark fins by enforcement agencies in India's coastal regions, airports and seaports.
Download the FACTSHEET - Netted in illegal wildlife trade: Sharks of India and 3D SHARK FIN IDENTIFICATION GUIDEBOOK at www.traficindia.org
For more information or any queries, please contact Dilpreet B. Chhabra at dilpreet.chhabra@traffic.org or call her at +91 9899000472. You can also speak to Dr Merwyn Fernandes, TRAFFIC's India Office also the author of the FACTSHEET at +91 9820347492 or write to him at merwyn.fernandes@traffic.org ; mfernandes@wwfindia.org
Oceanic whitetip shark
© naturepl.com/Doug Perrine/WWF-Canon Enlarge
Scalloped Hammerhead shark
© Brian J. Skerry/National Geographic Stock/WWF Enlarge
Shark fin
© naturepl.com/Jeff Rotman/WWF-Canon Enlarge
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