A year-long shark survey that collected 960 samples from across the country showed that more than half the shark meat eaten in Taiwan came from endangered or vulnerable species, according to an environmental group.
The Society of Wilderness (SOW) said that in a one-year shark DNA survey it conducted with Allen Chen (陳昭倫) from Academia Sinica’s Biodiversity Research Center, it found that 22 species of sharks were eaten in Taiwan and 56 percent of the samples were from sharks listed as endangered or vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
In addition, the scalloped hammerhead shark — classified as globally endangered by the IUCN, was also identified in the samples.
The shortfin mako shark and the blue shark were the most often found of the 22 species, Chen said, adding that the high diversity of sharks sold in the market clearly demonstrated the custom of eating “whatever was captured.”
The SOW said Taiwan’s annual shark catch was the fourth-biggest in the world.
The presence of sharks is a significant factor in the stability of marine ecosystems, so the survey results reflect the crisis that marine ecologies are now facing, the group said.
Funded by nearly 1,000 individual donors, the year-long collaborative survey was completed by collecting a total of 1,000 tissue samples from shark meat sold at supermarkets, fishing ports, traditional markets, food stands, dry goods stores and dietary supplements in 16 counties.
Of the 960 recorded samples, 671 were sent to the Academia Sinica for DNA testing and 570 were successfully identified, the SOW said, adding the precision and reference value of its report should be higher than the report by the Fisheries Agency last month, which was made with less than 100 effective samples.
SOW marine conservation coordinator Lin Ai-lung (林愛龍) said they were positive about the Fishery Bureau’s efforts at shark conservation in the past year, including the introduction of a regulation that banned the separation of fins from the sharks’ bodies before unloading on land, a regulation demanding legal fishing certificates be attached to imported shark fins and the application of DNA testing to identify shark species in the market.
Nonetheless, the SOW continues to urge the bureau to set regulations on total shark catches, encourage fishermen to install shark deterrent equipment to prevent shark bycatch and arrange DNA testing on shark meat samples as a routine annual task, she said.
According to Fisheries Agency statistics, Taiwan catches between 39,000 and 55,000 tonnes of shark per year, and the SOW suggested that the haul be cut to under 25,000 tonnes a year for sustainability.