Investigation Gives Glimpse Into The Scale Of The Shark Fin Trade


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

The Sea Shepherd group has been stalking the shark fin trade and they've now returned with huge findings involving some of the world’s biggest shipping and cargo corporations.

The main drive for this illegal trade is shark fin soup in Chinese cuisines. Literally, a soup. Even though there are international initiatives and a worldwide ban, it remains a multibillion-dollar industry.


During the three-month investigation by Sea Shepherd, a non-profit marine conservation group, they documented two 14-meter (45-foot) Maersk containers full of shark fins from the Middle East. They also found an airfreight shipment on Virgin Australia Cargo and Cathay Pacific, which had been falsely declared by the exporter as “fish products” or “dried seafood”.

The Sea Shepherd team estimate that 92 percent of shark fins enter Hong Kong through sea freight, while the remaining 8 percent arrive by air cargo.

These companies appeared to be grateful for the investigation, as they were unaware their services were been exploited through these loopholes. All three of the companies are now closely working with Sea Shepherd Global and WildAid to shut down the problem.

Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, said in a statement: “It's so sad what the team at Sea Shepherd has managed to discover. Thousands and thousands of sharks slaughtered just for their fins to be turned into bowls of soup. For those people who have knowingly participated, they need to hang their heads in shame. For Sea Shepherd and the team led by Gary Stokes, they need to be congratulated for exposing this foul, and sometimes illegal trade.”


A study from 2006 estimated that 38 million sharks are killed for their fins each year. Needless to say, this is a nightmare for conservationists. A quarter of the world’s shark species are threatened with extinction, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They consider the market for shark fin soup "a major factor in the depletion" of these numbers. Other marine animals, such as rays and chimeras, are also drawn into the trade as a cheaper alternative to sharks.

You can watch some of the undercover findings from the investigation in the video below.


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