Workers at a Taiwanese fishing port clean and process a haul of shark fins in new pictures taken by the U.S.-based Pew Environment Group.
Released October 19, the images show fins and body parts of vulnerable shark species—including the scalloped hammerhead and oceanic whitetip—being prepared for sale.
Up to 73 million sharks are caught each year for the global fin trade, which fuels a demand for shark-fin soup, according to Pew. Fishers usually slice the animals' fins off and throw their still-living bodies overboard.
(See "Shark Fins Traced to Home Waters Using DNA—A First.")
"Unfortunately, since there are no limits on the number of these animals that can be killed in the open ocean, this activity can continue unabated," Pew's Matt Rand said in a statement. "This strip-mining of the world's sharks is clearly unsustainable."
On October 21 the Taiwan Fisheries Agency announced a ban starting next year on shark finning, but the ban only mandates that caught sharks be taken back to shore with their fins still attached.
"This announcement is an indication that Taiwan is on the right track when it comes to protecting sharks. However, it falls short of what is really needed," Rand said. "A finning ban does not address the larger overfishing problem that is driving these animals toward extinction."
New Shark-Fin Pictures Reveal Ocean "Strip Mining"
Pictures taken by the Pew Environment Group in Taiwan suggest that fishers are "strip mining" the oceans of sharks, conservationists say.