The increasing demand for shark products, especially shark fins, has led to enormous fishing pressure on sharks worldwide, and considerable concern about the long-term health of shark populations. Addressing these concerns through appropriate management and conservation measures is hampered by the almost complete absence of species-specific catch and trade data. Exacerbating this problem is the difficulty of identifying most disembodied fins to species level based only on their appearance.
To assist in collection of species-specific catch and trade data, GHRI scientists are developing cutting-edge DNA-based forensic techniques and markers to rapidly identify shark carcasses, dried shark fins, and other products obtained from shark fisheries and fin markets. Using these forensic approaches, GHRI and its research partners (S. Clarke, Imperial College, UK, and the Wildlife Conservation Society) are conducting a survey of the world's largest shark fin market in Hong Kong. This survey is aimed at establishing relationships between trade categories for fins and the shark species from which the fins were derived. These data, together with trade information available for some fin categories is also being applied to estimate the contribution of key pelagic shark species to the trade.