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More than 200 countries and territories are importing and exporting shark and ray meat for a global trade that was valued at US$2.6 billion between 2012 and 2019, with Spain being the world’s top exporter, Italy the top importer and the EU accounting for over 20% of the global shark meat trade.
WWF worked with a team of scientists to develop the first analysis of the global shark and ray trade network using graph theory, which reveals not only the major importers and exporters of shark and ray meat, but also the traders playing essential roles as intermediaries. The report clearly shows how and where to focus international efforts to reverse the decline of shark and ray population, and calls for far greater transparency and traceability that are needed to stop the ongoing depletion of these vital species – and of our ocean more broadly. Today, the populations of some species have decreased as much as 95% while 36% of the more than 1,200 known shark and ray species are threatened with extinction.
"Although Croatia is not among the countries whose trade in sharks and rye significantly affects the global situation of this endangered group of fish, problems related to their fishing and trade certainly exist. According to the Nature Protection Act, 23 species of sharks and rays are strictly protected in Croatia, and as many as 41 species have been assigned a category of endangerment. Due to negligence and ignorance, but also intentional non-compliance with regulations, strictly protected and endangered species of sharks and rays can often be seen in our markets ", emphasizes Patrik Krstinić from WWF Adria.
Even though shark fins are generally much more expensive than shark meat, and the global fin trade has received far more attention to date, the global trade in shark and ray meat is actually larger than the trade in fins, both in volume and value.
“We are eating more shark and ray meat than we realize, and this is happening everywhere, including in Europe, with serious consequences for some species already at risk of extinction. Sharks and rays are migrating more when they are dead than alive, as their meat crosses over 200 borders, with some Mediterranean and European countries playing key roles as importers and exporters, as well as consumers. It’s a global trade that requires management and transparency to tackle illegality and the rapid depletion of sharks and rays in our ocean”, emphasizes Simone Niedermueller of WWF’s Mediterranean Maritime Initiative.
It is dominated by Spain (exporting shark meat to 85 different countries and territories), while the most important trade bridges for the shark meat network are between Japan and Spain, UK and Spain, Portugal and Spain, Japan and Panama, and China and Japan. The EU has established itself as the main supplier to Southeast and East Asian markets, with its own exports and imports accounting for about 22% of the total global shark meat trade.
Educating the public about the problem of fishing and trade of protected and endangered sharks and rays as well as the need for increased control of traceability are key steps in their preservation and restoration of the balance in marine habitats.