Chinese market responses to overexploitation of sharks and sea cucumbers
Global exploitation of sharks and sea cucumbers to meet consumer demand in China is motivating a rising conservation concern. In order to analyze trends in resource exploitation and market dynamics, this paper reviews global production and trade data for these taxa. Sea cucumber capture production has plateaued, but overall production is still increasing because of rising aquaculture, limited public conservation concern and insufficient regulation of fishing and trade. Shark capture production has peaked and is declining, suggesting that one or more of these factors are constraining the shark fin trade. The trade networks for both commodities have been resilient to changing conditions (e.g. stock declines, closed fisheries, regulations, public opinion on conservation) and have become more widespread over the last 10. years. System resilience is evident in dynamic market attributes, such as developing new product forms and absorbing alternative target species, and presents substantial challenges for identifying conservation approaches. For shark fin, a government-led backlash against conspicuous consumption in China, combined with global conservation momentum, appears to have had some impact on traded volumes. Sea cucumbers do not enjoy the same level of attention in the global conservation discourse, despite seven species being endangered. For both taxa, the current regulatory environment is insufficient to safeguard resources and strengthened conservation strategies are required. Better resolution of trade data will improve the ability to evaluate trends and guide management and conservation.
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