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Production and trade data are useful in highlighting important markets and uses for shark products. Similar to the difficulties seen with catch data, available trade statistics are currently affected by a series of problems that seriously limit the correctness of reported volumes and values of shark products in trade. They are often inadequate and not precise enough to state the species and areas of most interest in this trade. Knowledge regarding utilization of sharks is often limited, as national fisheries statistics frequently do not record production and trade of the various shark products. This is valid at both national and international levels. Standard 6-digit Customs tariff headings, used under the Harmonised System of classification, are specific for only “dogfish and other sharks”. A limited number of countries employ sub-codes to split “dogfish”, “catsharks”, and “other sharks” and/or identify shark fins, but data on production and trade of shark skins and leather, liver oil, jaws, fishmeal and fertilizer are rarely recorded. Moreover, production and trade in shark cartilage, which is increasingly marketed as a health supplement worldwide, is practically undocumented. The problem is more evident in production statistics as several nations record imports and exports of shark products (especially meat, but also fins), but not their domestic production. Further, there are cases, as in the USA for fins, in which imports for a shark product may be reported but not exports or vice versa.

These problems are mirrored in FAO statistics that are, as said previously, compiled from national reports. Even though they are the most exhaustive data available on world production and trade of fish and fishery products, they are also likely to represent only a small fraction of the actual world shark production and trade volumes. FAO data are highly incomplete and thereby misleading if employed to deduce the respective importance of, or trends for, various shark products. It is not possible to identify the total shark volume from these statistics, as sharks are often included with other chondrichthyan species. The statistics are limited by the lack of species-specific data reported by most countries, which often summarize information when reporting to FAO. With the exception of a limited number of countries, which have reported their exports and imports of dogfish since 1995, FAO statistics on production and trade provide no information on the various shark species involved. Moreover, there is the problem that several countries do not report their production or trade statistics to FAO at all. It may be noted that FAO and EUROSTAT statistics, both quoted in this report, often differ.

There is the risk that recorded trade data on fins may substantially over-estimate the real volume as fins often pass through a series of countries for repeated processing and transhipment with the consequent risk of repeated counting. There is also the possibility that for meat, different and incorrect standard conversion factors are used by different reporting countries to convert weight into live or carcass weights, as sharks differ widely by species, processing technique, country and region.


Table 6 reports world chondrichthyan production by the different products from 1976 to 1997 according to FAO statistics. Total production has considerably increased in this period, going from 20 300 tonnes in 1976 to 75 400 tonnes in 1997 and peaking at nearly 77 200 tonnes in 1993. Frozen whole shark is by far the main item produced with nearly 37 600 tonnes in 1997, followed by sharks, dried, salted or in brine (19 900 tonnes) and frozen shark fillets (4 200 tonnes). During the last few years a major increase has been experienced in the production of dried, salted or in brine sharks.

In 1997 Pakistan was the major producer of chondrichthyan products with nearly 19 100 tonnes, followed by Spain, the USA, Japan, Mexico, Taiwan Province of China and New Zealand (Table 7). With the exception of Japan, the countries reported above have shown impressive growths in their recorded production, in particular Pakistan, Spain and until 1995 the USA. Pakistan has considerably increased its production of dried, salted or in brine sharks in the 1990s. Growth has been particularly significant in the last three years as a consequence of its increased catch. In 1997 Pakistan produced nearly 19 000 tonnes of dried, salted or in brine sharks and 90 tonnes of dried and salted shark fins. Spain has shown one of the major rises in the last few years, going from 500 tonnes in 1992 to 12 100 tonnes in 1997. In 1997 Spain became the leading producer of frozen sharks.

Until 1996 Japan was the major producer of frozen sharks, with 7 500 tonnes. In 1997 its production was of 8 400 tonnes. Notwithstanding the slight increases experienced in the last two years, Japanese output has substantially declined due to the decrease in its shark catch. In the last few years Italian and Indonesian production have significantly dropped. In 1996 Indonesia reported to FAO only 1 700 tonnes as compared to 9 000 tonnes in 1995, while in 1997 its production has increased to 3 030 tonnes. In 1997 Italy reported no production of Elasmobranchii to FAO, and in 1996 it was only 250 tonnes, compared with 4 900 tonnes in 1992.

Figure 22 Chondrichthyan production by product form in 1 000 tonnes, 1976-1997

Source: FAO - FIDI.


According to FAO statistics, in 1997 total world chondrichthyan exports amounted to nearly 65 000 tonnes worth US$223.1 million (Table 8 and Table 9). This represents a substantial increase as compared to 20 300 tonnes, valued at US$35.0 million, in 1976. There has also been a growth in the number of countries reporting exports in the same period; in 1976 there were 35 and in 1997 there were 73. In 1997 the bulk of the exports in volume consisted of frozen whole sharks (35 000 tonnes, valued at US$73.6 million), followed by fresh or chilled whole sharks (13 200 tonnes worth US$33.1 million). Exports of shark fins in this year were less than 6 300 tonnes, valued at US$65.4 million. Table 10 reports the unit value of chondrichthyan exports by product.

Figure 23 Chondrichthyan exports by product form in US$ 1 million, 1976-1997

Source: FAO - FIDI.

In 1997 Spain was the leading exporting country of chondrichthyans (Table 11 and Table 12). In 1997 its exports amounted to 12 400 tonnes, valued at US$27.4 million. The great bulk of these exports consisted of frozen sharks (12 100 tonnes, value US$26.9 million). Other significant exporting countries were the USA, Japan, Taiwan Province of China, Indonesia, UK, Canada and New Zealand. In the period 1994-96 the USA has been far and away the major exporting country of chondrichthyan products, but in 1997 its exports have shown a 23.4% decline reaching more than 9 200 tonnes. In the last few years there has been a considerable decline in the exports of Norway, UK and Japan, which were, until 1990, the top three exporting countries in the world for chondrichthyan products. Yet, in 1997 has increased its exports by 38.9% as compared to the previous year and ranked third as exporter by volume, and fourth in value, behind China, Spain and the USA. Statistics on Chinese elasmobranch exports and imports are only available from 1992. In 1997 its exports consisted of 13 tonnes of frozen sharks and 2 420 tonnes (worth US$20.0 million) of dried and salted shark fins. China is the major exporter of shark fins by a long way, followed by Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan Province of China and India.

Notwithstanding that Pakistan was the leading shark producing country in 1997, Pakistan reported no shark exports to FAO and on the previous years only very limited volumes, but none of cured sharks that represent almost the totality of its production and which are probably exported. Dried, salted and in-brine shark meat is included with other fish species. Local consumption of dried and salted sharks is not very high in Pakistan as has been confirmed by its delegate at the FAO expert consultation meeting on the management of fishing capacity, shark fisheries and incidental catch of seabirds in longline fisheries[27]. He wrote: "Sharks, skates and rays etc. are generally not consumed locally. These are used for export purposes either in salted or frozen form. Hardly any stock assessment surveys or any research study has so far been carried out specifically on shark in the country".

Figure 24 Chondrichthyan exports by country in US$ 1 million, 1976-1997

Source: FAO - FIDI.


In 1997 world chondrichthyan imports amounted to nearly 73 100 tonnes, worth US$217.2 million, representing the peak year since 1976 (24 200 tonnes, US$47.6 million). In 1997 frozen shark meat was the main imported product, 37 800 tonnes worth US$91.4 million, followed by fresh or chilled shark meat with 14 400 tonnes, valued at US$42.2 million. Imports of shark fins were more than 7 000 tonnes, worth US$55.5 million (Table 13 and Table 14).

Figure 25 Chondrichthyan imports by product form in US$ 1 million, 1976-1997

Source: FAO - FIDI.

According to FAO statistics, in 1997 Italy was much the largest importer of chondrichthyan products, with nearly 14 400 tonnes valued at US$39.9 million (Table 16 and Table 17). The greater part of its imports were frozen sharks, 12 010 tonnes worth US$27.3 million. In 1997 other significant importers were Republic of Korea, France, Spain, China, UK, Hong Kong and Germany. France was the leading importer of fresh or chilled sharks, 3 800 tonnes, worth US$12.2 million, followed by the USA, Italy, UK and Denmark. In 1997 the European Union represented the main importing area with 54.7% of the imports by volume and 44.9% in value.

In 1997 Republic of Korea was the second largest importer of Elasmobranchii in the world by volume and value with 14 400 tonnes, worth US$27.0 million. Its imports were composed of more than 8 500 tonnes of frozen skates, 3 100 tonnes of Elasmobranchii not identified, 2 700 tonnes of frozen sharks and limited volumes of shark liver oil and dried, unsalted shark fins. China was the third largest importers of chondrichthyans by value with US$26.5 million and the leading importer of shark fins with 4 400 tonnes, valued US$24.8 million.

Figure 26 Chondrichthyan imports by country in US$ 1 million, 1976-1997

Source: FAO - FIDI.

[27]Statement from Pakistan for the expert consultation meeting of the FAO on the management of fishing capacity, shark fisheries and incidental catch of seabirds in longline fisheries (Rome, 26-30 October 1998).

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