World Bulletin/News Desk
Protection measures have failed to stop around 100 million sharks being fished every year and a third of all shark species are now threatened with extinction, conservationists say.
Many are caught for their fins, a delicacy in Asian soup. The fins are sliced off and the animals are often dumped alive overboard to die of suffocation or eaten by other predators.
Protection for endangered sharks may have lagged because they are relatively unloved compared to animals such as pandas or lions, even though they usually kill fewer than 10 people a year worldwide.
An estimated 97 million sharks, or 1.41 million tonnes, were caught in 2010 compared to 100 million in 2000, according to a study in the journal Marine Policy, the first to estimate the number of sharks killed annually.
A meeting of 170 nations in Bangkok from March 3 to 14 will consider limits on trade in hammerhead sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks and porbeagle sharks to curb over-fishing. Great white sharks, whale sharks and basking sharks already have protection.
Demand in Asia for shark fins, a delicacy in soup, is a main driver of catches that also target meat, liver oil and cartilage.
China plans to phase out shark fin soup in official banquets. But it may be a sign that sharks are getting harder to find because there are fewer in the oceans, Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Dalhousie University in Canada, told Reuters.
Sharks killed seven people worldwide in unprovoked attacks in 2012, down from 13 in 2011 but above the average for 2001 to 2010 of 4.4, according to the International Shark Attack File compiled by the University of Florida.
Friday's study estimated that between 6.4 and 7.9 percent of the world's sharks are caught every year, depleting numbers since sharks grow slowly, have few offspring and numbers can only rebound at about 4.9 percent a year.
A third of shark species risk being wiped out, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.