More than a third of shark fin products sold in Hong Kong shops come from species that are vulnerable or endangered, a new study has found.
The study, published in the science journal Conservation Biology on Tuesday, used new DNA techniques to work out which species of sharks are being used in Hong Kong’s shark fin trade.
“What surprised us was that some of the endangered species are the more common ones on the market,” research supervisor Dr Damien Chapman from Florida International University said.
“So when you have a bowl of shark’s fin soup in Hong Kong, there’s a reasonable probability that it came from an endangered species.”
The research was funded by US-based Pew Charitable Trusts and carried out by the university with the Bloom Association, a non-profit group, and the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden education centre in Hong Kong.
Between February 2014 and February 2015, scientists collected 4,800 random samples of shark fin from about 300 dried seafood shops, mostly in the Western District.
Using a new DNA testing technique, they were able to trace the samples to 76 different species of shark.
More than a third of these appear on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, which ranks rare species by their risk level. Twenty-five per cent of the species found are considered “vulnerable”, while 8 per cent are “endangered”, which means they could be a risk of extinction.
While the blue shark, a fairly populous species, was still the most commonly found species, making up 34 per cent of samples, other rarer species such as scalloped and great hammerheads, the silky shark bigeye thresher, shortfin mako and oceanic whitetip, were also found to be among the top 20 types.
And some of the samples found weren’t sharks at all: three species of rays and shark-like fish called chimaera were found.