Sharks in the Coral Triangle

As top-order predators, sharks are thought to play an important role in many of the ecosystems in which they occur. But strong demand for shark fins and a general deficit in management of shark catch is driving down their numbers in the Coral Triangle as elsewhere.

The report, An Overview of Shark Utilization in the Coral Triangle Region, examines the catch, trade, and management of sharks in waters of the six Coral Triangle countries, plus the neighbouring countries of Vietnam and Fiji.

About the trade

Despite long-standing global concerns on declining shark populations due to growing evidence that many shark species are threatened, shark populations continue to decline.

This is due to a general lack of even basic management, and is further exacerbated by illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Some fisheries target sharks for their meat but the main driver of unsustainable fishing for sharks is currently the demand in Asia for fins, which are used in shark fin soup.

Today, the vast majority of shark products come from unsustainable sources, not just fins. Sharks are also heavily traded for their meat, skin, and liver oil.

What the report shows

This report shows that Indonesia and Malaysia are among the top 20 shark catching nations in the world—Indonesia being the single largest catcher.

There are crucial gaps in countries’ implementation of management measures and data collection. In some cases this reflects inconsistency with basic requirements of the regional bodies and international conventions of which they are members.

Key issues highlighted include:
  • the general absence of specific management measures for sharks
  • a lack of species identification in shark catch and trade reports
  • a general lack of available data on both shark catch and trade across the region
Importantly, the report encourages local and regional management bodies to examine the factors needed for responsible shark utilization.

This report shows how slow the development of sustainable fisheries has been in important areas where sharks are caught.

For this reason, WWF advocates that people should stop consuming shark fin and other parts, unless they can verify that a shark product is really coming from a sustainable source, notably with Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.

MSC is the only credible eco-label currently available for wild capture fisheries, and there are only 2 MSC certified shark fishery in the world to date.
Of the 1,044 shark-related species, 181 are listed as threatened by IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Red List, while 488 are classified as data deficient.

The development of sustainable shark fisheries in this region has a long way to go. None of the countries can currently claim to be effectively and responsibly managing their shark resources.


Shark sanctuaries provide an immediate and precautionary supplement to other management measures and, in particular, can provide much needed refuge and protected nursery areas for sharks.



Paolo Mangahas
Communications Manager
WWF Coral Triangle Programme

Andy Cornish
Conservation Director
WWF-Hong Kong

Glenn Sant
Global Marine Programme Leader

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