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1 INTRODUCTION


1.1 The shark study

Shark fisheries are attracting increasing worldwide interest and concern, particularly regarding the trade in shark products and their impact on shark stocks. To understand the situation of shark fisheries in China, INFOYU undertook a study from November 1998 to January 1999 focusing on shark catches, imports, exports, consumption and distribution in China.

A group of seven from INFOYU, Bureau of Fisheries, CITES Management Authorities of China, China Academy of Fisheries Sciences, China National Fisheries Technology Extension Centre and Fujian and Guangdong Provincial Fisheries Bureau collected and compiled available information and data. The China Fishery Scientific Information Databank was searched for information and publications. From 25 November to 25 December 1998 a local survey of catches, processing and consumption in Guangdong, Fujian and Guangxi provinces was arranged through the local Fishery Bureau. From 7 December to 25 December 1998, the group made a two-week field visit to Guangdong province in order to survey shark fin processing, marketing and consumption and shark catches. The information gathered was analysed by the group, the report drafted by members on their specialist subjects and the final version submitted to the group for review. This was then translated into English.

1.2 Background

China is in eastern Asia, on the west coast of the Pacific Ocean. It has a total land area of 9.6 million square kilometres. China borders the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea with a curved coast line of 18 000 kilometres and over 6 500 islands.

In the past twenty years China has witnessed a rapid expansion of fisheries production, increasing from 4.3 million tonnes in 1979 to 36.01 million tonnes in 1997. Fisheries are playing an increasing role in the country’s agriculture and hence in the national economy. Its share in the value of agricultural output increased from 1.4% in 1979 to 10.6% in 1997. This is due to the reforming policies of the government of China since 1978. Fish and fishery products, as one of the major agricultural commodities, were released onto the market by the government of China in 1985 and this is believed to be the key factor in promoting the increase in China’s fishery production in the past twenty years. The consumption of shark and shark products has been limited in China, even through Chinese have traditionally eaten them. This is because of the low economic importance of shark in the fishing industry as a whole plus constraints from the standard of living prevalent in China It is only recently that these products have become more common in luxury restaurants and hotels.

1.3 Shark fishing in China

China’s marine fishing fleet comprises about 280 000 motorised fishing boats and vessels, including approximately 1 000 overseas fishing vessels operating internationally. However, shark fishing has never been a significant fishery in China. According to the survey, China has about 50 fishing boats targeting sharks at present. Guangdong, Fujian, Guangxi and Hainan are the four major provinces engaged in shark fishing. The survey found that shark production comes mostly from bycatch, which accounts for about 80% of the total. Fujian is the only province recording shark production in China.

Table 1 Shark catch in Fujian province

Year

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

Catch (tonnes)

4 160

4 763

4 756

5 219

5 499

5 753

4 608

Source: Statistics from Fujian Provincial Fishery Bureau


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