In 2020 Shark Stewards adopted a new logo to represent our focus on protecting endangered sharks in the next decade. This elegant design contributed by South African artist Katerina Sonntagova represents the yin and yang of ocean life, a harmony between species, and features the most charismatic and among the most beautiful and mystical sharks.
These unique species are also among the most threatened with extinction. One study estimates that scalloped hammerhead sharks have been reduced over 90%.
Frequenting pinnacles and areas of high productivity in large aggregations, these species are especially vulnerable to directed fishing. Highly migratory, they are caught incidentally and commercially targeted for their valuable fins in longline, bottom trawl, gill net and hook-and-line fisheries.
Hammerheads are particularly threatened by the global shark fin trade because of the large size of their fins values at over 800 dollars per kilogram in the Hong Kong market. Using DNA analysis, researchers analyzed dried shark fins in Hong Kong and identified scalloped hammerheads, a critically endangered species. The sharks were traced to the eastern Pacific Ocean between Baja California and northern Peru. This May, Customs authorities seized 28 tons of illegally smuggled shark fins, in Hong Kong, the largest global market for shark fin imports. According to officials, the fins valued at $1.1 million were taken from about 38,500 sharks, mostly thresher and silky sharks, both of which are endangered.
Despite the fact that they’re protected by CITES, an international treaty used to prevent endangered animals and plants from being illegally traded more than 70% of the fins that end up in Hong Kong come from vulnerable or endangered species. These include scalloped hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini), great hammerheads (Sphyrna mokarran), and oceanic whitetips (Carcharhinus longimanus).
Caught accidentally or by recreational fishers, more than 90 percent of hammerheads die once they are captured, making catch and release catch and destroy.
Since 2013 Shark Stewards has been working in the Coral Triangle in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore to increase shark and ray protection and reduce shark fin imports and exports. A 2019 report by the non-profit TRAFFIC ranks Malaysia as number 2 in global shark fin imports ahead of Singapore and behind Hong Kong. Trade records indicate that import and re-exports from Hong Kong to China are on the decline, while numbers are increasing at other trade hubs.
In 2021 Shark Stewards is focusing on a new campaign with our Singapore chapter to ban all import/exports of CITES protected shark and ray species. We are also continuing our work with the Sabah Shark Protection Association to focus on trade reduction in that shark fin hotspot.
Manta ray’s are targeted and caught as bycatch in a number of global fisheries throughout its range. Manta rays are particularly valued for their gill rakers, which are traded internationally to make traditional medicine. All are migratory and extremely vulnerable to overfishing.
In October 2020, around 330kgs (72 pounds) of manta ray gill plates were seized at Hong Kong International Airport in one of the largest documented seizures, with an estimated market value of USD $116,000. Even though giant manta rays are listed as endangered by the International Union for he Conservation of Nature, and have been granted international protection under CITES Appendix II, the lucrative profits lead to the illegal killing and smuggling of these gentle rays.
There is strong evidence that the trade of fins is on the rise outside of Hong Kong (which also has the best record keeping and customs), including Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. These amazing sharks and rays are also the most sought after by divers to observe and photograph and revenue raised through ecotourism brings in over 100 million dollars per year. These sharks and rays also provide important ecological services and are worth far more alive than dead.
Join us saving these beautiful fish from extinction and come dive with Hammerheads and Mantas in 2024 on one of our Shark and Ray Eco Ventures.