A report by Diego Cardeñosa, Stanley K. Shea, Huarong Zhang, Gunter Fischer, Colin A Simpfendorfer, and Demian D. Chapman reports that the main threat to the extinction of one-third of the chondrichthyan species (sharks, rays, and chimeras) is unsustainable fishing. Large, easily accessible markets for meat and luxuries like dried fins can encourage the targeted capture or retention of high-value export species, contributing to overfishing. According to the study, which looked at the species composition of the Hong Kong shark fin market from 2014 to 2018, traded species are disproportionately found in threatened categories (70.9 per cent) and are all endangered. A few cosmopolitan species dominate the trade, but given their limited distribution, non cosmopolitan coastal species are still traded at alarming levels. Many of these coastal species could go extinct without management because they are typically not subject to international trade regulations, fisheries management, or retention prohibitions.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, cartilaginous fishes are among the vertebrate groups with the greatest threat. Between global assessments in 2014 and 2021, the number of species in threatened categories has doubled. The majority (94.2 per cent) of changes in species status between the two assessments are the result of new information and are not thought to be real changes. Nevertheless, a conservation crisis has been sparked by the estimation that 37.5% of all chondrichthyan species are currently in danger of going extinct. Chondrichthyans can be caught accidentally or on purpose in a variety of fishing gear types in fisheries ranging from industrial to artisanal scale. Market prices for chondrichthyan products range from reasonably priced meat for domestic consumption to highly valuable export goods like dried fins. Large, easily accessible international markets can encourage fishing by increasing demand for meat or fins beyond what is necessary to meet local and national needs. Because there is a greater incentive to target or retain high-value export species, we anticipate that species subject to international trade will typically be at higher risk of extinction than species caught primarily for domestic consumption or not at all. This is because international trade is frequently the primary driver of unsustainable fishing.
The report’s conclusions show that more than two-thirds of the species present in the Hong Kong dried fin trade are endangered, according to recently updated IUCN Red List assessments. Because of this, species involved in the dried fin trade are nearly twice as likely to be threatened with extinction as chondrichthyans as a whole. Cosmopolitan pelagic and coastal species have the highest trade incidence, but there are also many non cosmopolitan coastal species that are dying due to uncontrolled and unregulated anthropogenic activity.