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Table 2 shows major fishing countries of chondrichthyan species by selected years from 1950 to 1997.

In 1997 India was by far the world’s leading chondrichthyan fishing nation, followed by Indonesia, Pakistan, USA, Taiwan Province of China, Mexico and Japan. Other relevant countries, with more than 10 000 tonnes, were Argentina, Spain, Malaysia, France, UK, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Republic of Korea, Brazil, Thailand and Maldives.

Figure 3 Chondrichthyan catches by countries in 1 000 tonnes, 1950-1997

Source: FAO - FIDI.

India has traditionally had an important elasmobranch fishery. In 1950 its catches represented 11.0% of the total world production of chondrichthyans and in 1997 India was the first shark fishing country with nearly 131 400 tonnes, or 16.6% of the world total. Its catches have shown various ups and downs since 1950, with material increases in the mid 1980s, peaking at 132 200 tonnes in 1996. Yet, Elasmobranchii represent only 3.6% of total national catches in 1997. Catch composition data are not available as India reports all catches in the group “Elasmobranchii not identified”. According to the study prepared by Varma[9] for FAO, the potential resource of Elasmobranchii in Indian waters consists in 120 000 tonnes with more than 65 species. Sharks account for about 70% of the Indian Elasmobranchii. More than 20 species of sharks are usually captured, mainly Carcharhinidae and Sphyrnidae. Major species caught are blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus), spot-tail shark, whitecheek shark (Carcharhinus dussumieri), blacktip reef shark, hardnose shark (Carcharhinus macloti), tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier), spadenose shark (Scoliodon laticaudus), milk shark (Rhizoprionodon acutus) and scalloped hammerhead.

Figure 4 India: chondrichthyan catches by fishing area in 1 000 tonnes, 1950-97

Source: FAO - FIDI.

Indonesia has considerably increased its elasmobranch catch, from 1 000 tonnes in 1950 to 95 600 tonnes in 1997, which represents 12.1% of total world chondrichthyan catches but only 2.6% of total Indonesian catches. This growth has been particularly significant since the mid 1970s. Indonesia does not report chondrichthyan catches by species but only the groups of Elasmobranchii and Rajiformes, which were respectively 59 450 tonnes and 36 100 tonnes in 1997. According to Bonfil[10], sharks accounted for 66% of the average elasmobranch catches during 1976-91. Among major shark species caught there are blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus), spot-tail shark (Carcharhinus sorrah), whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus), scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini), blue sharks and leafscale gulper shark (Centrophorus squamosus).

Figure 5 Indonesia: chondrichthyan catches by fishing area in 1 000 tonnes, 1950-1997

Source: FAO - FIDI.

The chondrichthyan fisheries of Pakistan have shown several ups and downs since 1950. They have increased considerably since 4 800 in 1950 to peak at 74 000 tonnes in 1973 and to plummet to 34 800 tonnes in 1974. In the following years they grew again but in 1983 they fell to 18 200 tonnes. Since then catches have steadily increased to more than 51 400 tonnes in 1996. In 1997 they declined to 48 400 tonnes. Nowadays, the great bulk of Pakistanis elasmobranch catches is composed of Carcharhinidae, which accounted for 31 200 tonnes in 1997. In the past Rajiformes represented the major proportion, with a maximum of 77.4% in 1982.

Figure 6 Pakistan: chondrichthyan catches by species in 1 000 tonnes, 1950-1997

Source: FAO - FIDI.

US elasmobranch catches have increased considerably from 2 600 tonnes in 1950 to more than 40 400 tonnes in 1997, accounting for 5.1% of total world chondrichthyan catches in that year. This growth was not regular, with a tremendous increase since the second half of the 1970s and a peak at 54 100 tonnes in 1992. More information about the US elasmobranch catch can be found in the US section.

In 1997 Taiwan Province of China caught 40 100 tonnes of Elasmobranchii, 5.1% of total world chondrichthyan catches. This has substantially increased from 9 000 tonnes in 1950. The growth was particularly significant in the mid 1970s and the mid 1980s, with a peak of 75 700 tonnes in 1990. Since then they have declined sharply, with a slight exception in 1995. In 1997 “Elasmobranchii not identified” were 38 700 tonnes and the rest were raijformes. According to C.T. Chen[11], sharks constitute the great bulk of the chondrichtyan catches of Taiwan Province of China. Major species caught are shortfin mako shark, bigeye thresher shark, pelagic thresher shark, smooth hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena), scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini), sandbar shark, silky shark, dusky shark and blue shark.

Mexican elasmobranch catches have increased appreciably from 3 600 tonnes in 1954 to 45 200 tonnes in 1996, which represents the peak year. This rise was fairly regular with periods of sustained growth in the mid 1970s and during the last few years. In 1997 catches have declined to 35 700 tonnes, a 21.1% decrease as compared to the previous year. In 1997 Mexican catches of Elasmobranchii represented 2.4% of total Mexican catches and 4.5% of total world catches of chondrichthyans. Directed fisheries exist mainly for sharks and they are mostly artisanal, multispecies and multigear[12]. Requiem sharks nei are the only shark species identified in FAO statistics and were nearly 7 300 tonnes in 1997. According to different sources, the main species caught are Carcharhinidae, as silky, dusky, blacktip, blacknose and sandbar sharks; Sphyrnae, as scalloped and great hammerheads; Alopiidae as pelagic and bigeye threshers; smooth-hounds; shortfin and longfin mako sharks.

Figure 7 Taiwan PC: chondrichthyan catches by fishing area in 1 000 tonnes, 1950-1997

Source: FAO - FIDI.

Figure 8 Mexico: chondrichthyan catches by species in 1 000 tonnes, 1950-1997

Source: FAO - FIDI.

Until 1971 Japan was the major shark fishing country. The 1940s and 1950s were the periods of the most intensive catches. In 1950 Japan’s chondrichthyan catch amounted to 100 700 tonnes, equivalent to 37% of world catches. By 1997 this was down to 3.9%. In 1997 its catch equalled 31 000 tonnes, a 28.0% increase over 24 200 tonnes in 1996. More information on the Japanese elasmobranch catch can be found in the Japanese section.

[9 ]VARMA R.A.M., “The Indian shark industry”, Appendix IV.3 of this volume.
[10] BONFIL R., idem.
[11 ]CHEN C.T., National Taiwan Province of China Ocean University, pers. comm., 1992.
[12 ]BONFIL R., idem.

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