A conservation group has warned that sharks could be extinct within a generation unless people lose their appetite for shark fin soup, Reuters reports.
WildAid today called on the Chinese government to act to protect several at-risk species - including Basking, Great White, and Hammerhead - which face increasing pressure as the country's taste for the soup grows with increased wealth.
According to WildAid, the Chinese account for more than 90 per cent of the world's shark fin consumption, "traditionally served in soup at...wedding banquets and occasions when the host wants to impress guests with expensive dishes".
The organisation's executive director Peter Knights told a news conference: "These animals have been here for 400 million years and they may disappear in one generation, not to provide people with basic food, but for a solely luxury item."
WildAid president Steve Trent added: "Precisely the role China plays is one of unsustainable demand. The demand for shark fin soup as it now stands, and as it's set to increase, cannot be sustained by wild shark populations. This is a role where the Chinese government can show genuine global leadership and can help many other countries around the world that are extremely poor and less well resourced, to protect their shark populations."
According to a WildAid report in May: "Between 26 and 73 million sharks are traded globally each year, while reported world trade in fins has nearly tripled from 4,900 metric tonnes in 1987 to 13,600 metric tonnes in 2004."
Trent gloomily commented on the figures: "Recent research has proven that many shark species and populations have experienced precipitous declines over the past 20 years, some by as much as 99 per cent."