Source: The Weekend Australian, 24-25 February, 2001, p.11
LONDON: The Chinese middle class's growing appetite for shark fin soup is sending the world's already depleted shark population closer to extinction. Research, published yesterday by the group WildAid, suggested some populations had fallen by up to 90 per cent with more than 100 million sharks and shark-like fish killed each year. Shark populations also are slow to reproduce, making them vulnerable to over-fishing. The group warned that China's demand for shark fins had led to the growth of illegal fishing in precious marine reserves such as the Galapagos and Cocos islands, and called on Britain and other European countries to join the US and Australia in introducing an immediate ban on finning. An estimated 250 million Chinese customers value shark fin as a delicacy for its aphrodisiac powers. Such is the demand that prices have risen and reported shark catches have gone up from 622,908 tonnes in 1985 to more than 800,000 tonnes in 1998. The great white shark has been placed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's "vulnerable" list. The whale shark, the world's largest fish, is also targeted by harpoon fisheries for fin and liver exports to India and Taiwan, and the basking shark once sighted in its hundreds off Britain's Cornish coast, has declined by 50 to 80 per cent in the past 20 years. A dorsal fin can fetch up to £10,000 ($27,500). WildAid director Peter Knights said: "Every shark now has a price on its fins. There is a free- for-all developing, which is causing depletion and possible extinction in some cases." The Times
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