Home News Drawing Attention on India as large scale illegal shark trade on the rise, says study

Drawing Attention on India as large scale illegal shark trade on the rise, says study

Drawing Attention on India as large scale illegal shark trade on the rise, says study

In Tamil Nadu, most shark seizures occurred, making up almost 65%, followed by Karnataka, Gujarat, Kerala, and Maharashtra.

Between January 2010 and December 2022, about 16,000 kilograms of shark fins were confiscated in India. Tamil Nadu had the highest number of these incidents, according to a new report from TRAFFIC and WWF-India.

Most of the seized shark products, about 80%, were shark fins, along with substantial amounts of shark cartilage and teeth, as per the information provided.

Shark fins and meat are in high demand worldwide. Shark fins, mainly used for making ‘shark fin soup,’ are the most desired. Shark meat is eaten as food, skin is used for leather, liver oil for lubrication, and in cosmetics for vitamin A. Cartilage is extracted for making medicines, and jaws and teeth are used for making souvenirs.

The discovery is important because the ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) suggested in February to mark out ‘shark hotspots’ in Indian waters due to the decreasing number of shark catches.

CMFRI stated that marking out hotspots would protect endangered species, young sharks, and adult breeders from being caught intentionally. They mentioned that the catches of elasmobranchs, a group containing sharks, rays, and guitarfish, dropped by about 55% from 2012 to 2022.

TRAFFIC looked at news reports from January 2010 to December 2022 and found 17 instances of shark products being seized illegally. Fins were the most commonly seized item, accounting for 15,839.5 kilograms, reported in 82% of the cases.

Other items seized included cartilage (1,600 kg) and teeth (2,445). In 35% of the seizures, authorities also confiscated various other illegal wildlife products like sea cucumbers, sea horses, corals, shells, pangolin scales, deer skin and antlers, elephant tusks, tiger claws, camel bones, kangaroo hides, porcupine quills, and tortoise shells.

Most shark seizures happened in Tamil Nadu, making up almost 65% of the incidents, followed by Karnataka, Gujarat, Kerala, and Maharashtra. The seized products were taken to Singapore, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, and mainland China.

Merwyn Fernandes, who works as an associate director at TRAFFIC India, stated that the desire for shark fins and meat plays a big role in driving the global shark fishing industry. Shark fins, particularly used to prepare shark fin soup, are highly desired.

Sharks are important predators in the ocean, feeding on different aquatic creatures like plankton, fish, crabs, and even marine mammals. However, they face a high risk of extinction due to overfishing and their slow reproductive rates, which make them more vulnerable compared to many other animals with backbones.


Out of the 160 types of sharks found in India, only 26 species of sharks and rays are fully protected under the updated Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, listed in Schedules I and II. The species listed in Appendix I and II of CITES are included in Schedule IV of the Act.

Dipankar Ghose, who works as a senior director of biodiversity conservation at WWF India, emphasized that illegal shark trade poses a serious threat to shark populations worldwide, including in India. One of the main methods of illegal trade involves falsely labeling species on permits. Additionally, the difficulty in identifying shark fins from various species makes it hard to control their illegal trade. The lack of effective monitoring systems also makes it challenging to distinguish between legal and illegal shark trade.

Last month, Shoba Joe Kizhakudan, who leads the Finfish Fisheries Division at CMFRI, mentioned that sharks are not equipped to handle overfishing due to their evolutionary history.

“They can’t have babies quickly enough to replace the many deaths each year because most sharks live for a long time and don’t have many babies,” she said. She added that catching young sharks also makes the situation worse for their survival in the long run.