Great white sharks are protected by national legislation in several countries, making this species the most widely protected elasmobranch in the world. Although the market demand for shark fins in general has continued to grow, the value and extent of utilization of white shark fins in trade has been controversial. We combine law enforcement with genetic profiling to demonstrate that illegal trade in fins of this species is occurring in the contemporary international market. Furthermore, we document the presence of fins from very young white sharks in the trade, suggesting a multiple-use market (food to trophies) exists for fins of this species. The presence of small fins in the trade contradicts the view that white shark fins have market value only as large display trophies, and not as food. Our findings indicate that effective conservation of protected shark species will require international management regimes that include monitoring of the shark fishery and trade on a species-specific basis.
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This research was funded by the Florida Sea Grant Program, the Roe Foundation, the Pew Institute for Ocean Science through the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Hai Stiftung Foundation. DDC is supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. We thank J. Cassin and R. Gamba of the NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and R. Bonfil of the Wildlife Conservation Society for assistance with sampling; S. Clarke provided helpful background information on the fin trade.
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Shivji, M., Chapman, D., Pikitch, E. et al. Genetic profiling reveals illegal international trade in fins of the great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias . Conserv Genet 6, 1035–1039 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-005-9082-9
- fin trade
- great white sharks
- shark DNA forensics