Hong Kong currently handles at least 50%, and possibly up to 80%, of the world’s shark fin trade, with the majority of supply arriving from Europe, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, United States, Yemen, India, Japan and Mexico. The illegal trade in shark fins is rampant, and it is therefore extremely difficult to discern between the importation of ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’ shark fins.
In 2006, Dr. Shelley Clarke’s analysis of shark fin markets in Hong Kong estimated that upwards of 73 million sharks are being killed each year for the shark fin trade - about three times more than the official catch number reported to the United Nations. This data was obtained from cooperative traders of shark fins in Hong Kong and estimates that if this number is converted to shark weight, about 1.7 million tons of shark flesh is harvested each year – three to four times higher than the United Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimate.
Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan have boomed as the main shark fin trading centers in the last fifteen years due to the popularity and increased consumption of shark fin soup. The over-fishing of sharks driven by demand for Shark Fin Soup is the leading cause of the dramatic decline in shark populations around the world.
With the popularization of sustainable or vegetarian versions of the soup internationally, many people are recognizing the importance of sharks by shunning this ‘tradition’ and opting out for ethical menu items for their special occasions.