(Warning: Some images are graphic.)

Documenting the extent to which Taiwan is scouring the seas for sharks, the Pew Environment Group released a series of images Wednesday that capture that nation’s impact on global fisheries. 


Shark fishing boats in Taiwan. ( Shawn Heinrichs for the Pew Environment Group)

“These images present a snapshot of the immense scale of shark-fishing operations and show the devastation resulting from the lack of science-based management of sharks,“ said Matt Rand, director of global shark conservation at the Pew Environment Group. “Unfortunately, since there are no limits on the number of these animals that can be killed in the open ocean, this activity can continue unabated.”   Scientists estimate the global shark fin trade kills between 26 million and 73 million sharks a year. Sharks have become an increasingly priority for enviornmentalists because of the rising prices of shark fins. California recently banned shark fin soup to curb the trade and a number of countries have created shark sancturaries to protect the animals from overfishing. Those measures have not stopped the trade. In Colombia, this week, the Guardian reports that divers discovered a huge shark massacre in a shark sanctuary of the cost of an islaned called Malpelo.

Taiwanese officials, contacted in Washington, emphasized that the catch Pew documented complied with both Taiwanese and international law. Only three shark species — whale, basking and white sharks — have international trade protections, and there are no global limits on shark fishing. 

Grace Lin, deputy director of the economic division at the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Representative Office, said her country has a national action plan for sharks in place and is working to protect whale sharks, which swim in Taiwan’s waters. She added that as of Jan. 1 vessels will have to land sharks with fins attached, a move aimed at curbing the fin trade. 

“We are aware of this,” Lin said of the massive shark trade in her nation. 


Shark fins at a processing warehouse in Taiwan. (Shawn Heinrichs for the Pew Environment Group)