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73 million killed annually for fins

By Geraldine Coutts MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Jan. 31, 2011) - A new report says the number of sharks that countries report as catching is not always accurate, and many countries do not manage their shark fisheries effectively.

The Future of Sharks report, by wildlife trade monitoring group TRAFFIC, says the annual reports to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization do not tell the full story.

Matt Rand, Director of Global Shark Conservation with the Pew Environment Group, which collaborated on the report, has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program many species of sharks are threatened with extinction.

"Many countries are not fully reporting their total catch of sharks or for that matter many countries do not submit data on the actual species level of the sharks that they're catching," he said. "And unfortunately a growing demand for shark fin soup has now caused up to 73 million sharks annually to be killed to support the global shark fin trade."

Mr. Rand says while there are international agreements relating to fishing limits throughout the Pacific, there are no controls on the number of sharks which can be caught.

And he says while South Pacific nations are not among the top 20 fishing nations, that doesn't mean they aren't playing a role in the threat to some shark species.

"The South Pacific and the Pacific Island countries actually compromise of about a third of the world's ocean surface, and then there are many species which have a very low intrinsic rate, their numbers are not naturally high numbers," he said.

"So species that are, let's say like the Grey Reef shark, often found around coral reefs, can be easily over-fished, but they're not high numbers that will be coming out of that fishery. So you could still have a commercial fishery on it and completely over-exploit those species, but would not end up in the top 20 fishing nations."

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