In shark fin export capital Peru, Asian demand threatens local species
That lucrative trade is threatening species of shark off the coasts of Peru and neighboring Ecuador, according to marine biologists. In just over a decade, Peru has almost tripled exports of shark fins - both legally and illegally sourced - hitting a record 400 tonnes in 2021, Oceana data show.
At a market in northern Peru fishermen and traders barter over mutilated sharks, loading the fish onto motorized rickshaws. Much of the meat will be eaten locally, but the removed fins are headed elsewhere: China.
Peru is the world's largest exporter of shark fins, according to marine protection organization Oceana. The catches are usually sent to Asia, where shark fin soup is a delicacy that can cost over $200 a bowl. That lucrative trade is threatening species of shark off the coasts of Peru and neighboring Ecuador, according to marine biologists.
In just over a decade, Peru has almost tripled exports of shark fins - both legally and illegally sourced - hitting a record 400 tonnes in 2021, Oceana data show. That dipped back to around 339 tonnes last year amid tighter global scrutiny of the trade. In Peru, the fishing and selling of legally-caught shark fins is allowed. But there are far larger populations of sharks off the coast of Ecuador, where such activity is outlawed.
Alicia Kuroiwa, a Peruvian marine biologist and shark expert at Oceana, said three-quarters of the fins exported from Peru originate from Ecuador and are smuggled illegally across the border in refrigerated trucks. Many arrive in the border town of Tumbes in Peru, where there is a market for shark meat and fins.
Fishermen can claim the sharks were caught in nets unintentionally, allowing them to be sold. A representative at Peru's Ministry of the Environment said she did not have details immediately available on shark fin exports, without giving further comment.
Marine biologist Adriana Gonzalez said that indiscriminate fishing off Peru and Ecuador was threatening species including the blue shark, mako shark, and hammerhead shark. Under the name "tollo," various shark species are regularly consumed domestically in the popular Peruvian ceviche dish. However, the fins are harvested and exported to Asia.
"The Chinese are looking in all markets because they can't supply themselves, and in Peru there is a very strong trade route for fins," said Gonzalez. In November last year, a global convention on the trade of endangered species agreed to expand regulation of the trade of Requiem sharks, primarily fished for their fins used in shark-fin soup. These include some, though not all, of the sharks fished off the Peruvian and Ecuadorian coast.
In a cove in the fishing town of Zorritos, in Tumbes, fishermen who make a livelihood from shark fishing have another worry, they say. The shifting climate has meant even fewer sharks in the fishing grounds. "They have been absent due to the fact that the waters are warm again," fisherman Edgardo Cruz said.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)