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EU Emerges as World's Leading Shark Meat Trader, Holding a 22% Share in Global Imports.

The European Union (EU) has established itself as the world's leading trader of shark meat on a global scale, commanding a substantial 22% share of the world's total imports. This significant presence in the shark meat trade underscores the EU's central role in the global seafood market.

the EU flag
The European Union is The Largest Trader of Shark Meat in the World

The importation data reveals a substantial flow of shark products into the EU, indicating a complex network of trade relationships with various countries. The EU's position is particularly noteworthy, given the diverse sources of shark meat, including but not limited to contributions from countries such as Taiwan, Portugal, Uruguay, China, and Spain.

This dominance in the shark meat trade not only reflects the EU's significant role in the global fishing and seafood industry but also raises questions about sustainability practices and the conservation of shark populations in light of such extensive trade volumes. As the EU continues to play a pivotal role in the international seafood market, addressing the environmental impact and ensuring responsible fishing practices in shark trade become paramount for sustainable marine ecosystems.

Sharks on ice after being caught
Sharks On Ice. Photo by Steve Woods.

In a recent incident, the Galician Coast Guard Service intercepted a substantial haul—24,803 kilograms of blue shark and 49 kilograms of fins—in Vigo, the world's largest fishing port. This confiscation was part of an international operation originating in Portugal, where an Angolan-flagged freezer vessel had unloaded sharks caught in Angola, destined for the EU market. Authorities, in a proactive move, managed to halt some containers in Porto, Portugal, confirming their linkage to illegal fishing practices.

Historically, Brazil has held the title of the world's foremost consumer of shark meat. According to official data, the country typically imports approximately 17,000 tons of shark annually, with major sources being Taiwan, Portugal, Uruguay, China, and Spain.

Studies indicate that in Brazil, elasmobranchs are marketed using the generic term "cação," a strategy employed to mitigate consumer resistance to purchasing cartilaginous fish.

Shark meat in steaks in a supermarket
Cação (Shark Meat) in a Brazilian Supermarket.

In addition to imports, Brazil also captures around 5,000 tons of blue shark. Notably, this total includes an undisclosed quantity of coastal shark species, among them various types of hammerhead sharks, which are protected at a national level and prohibited from being caught in Brazil.

The European Union's prominent position as the foremost trader in global shark meat highlights the need for increased attention to sustainable practices and conservation efforts. As the EU continues to play a central role in the international seafood market, addressing the environmental impact of shark trade becomes imperative for the long-term health of marine ecosystems. The challenge lies in striking a balance between meeting market demands and ensuring responsible fishing practices to safeguard the world's shark populations and preserve the biodiversity of our oceans.



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