Trade in shark fins represents one of the most serious threats to shark populations worldwide. Previous studies have indicated that certain types of fins are more valued than others, but due to the largely unregulated and often covert nature of the trade, information on actual species composition has been anecdotal and unverified. In order to examine the potential impacts of the shark fin trade on the abundance of various shark species, a study of the species composition in the world’s largest shark fin trading center, Hong Kong, was initiated. Several approaches for distinguishing the species identity of dried fins were evaluated including visual differentiation (shape, color and morphometrics), denticle recognition, and DNA-based methods. This assessment found that genetic analyses were necessary to reliably determine species identity, and a technique involving application of polymerase chain reactions (PCR) with species-specific primers was selected. A sampling program was developed based on the requirements of the PCR technique, the practicalities of accessing samples, and the ability to draw statistically robust conclusions. Shark fins from twelve market categories were sampled and analyzed across a broad range of traders to investigate the concordance between trader names for fins and the associated species identity. Preliminary results indicating an initial matching of trade names and species identities will be presented. These data will subsequently be used in combination with daily shark fin auction records to estimate verified, speciesspecific proportions and quantities of shark fins in the trade.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/mahmood-shivji/69/