MEXICO CITY – The yen for shark fin soup, a status symbol in Asian societies, has caused hammerhead shark populations to dwindle in oceans the world over, but particularly off the coast of Mexico.
Biologist Juan Carlos Cantu told EFE that, while shark fishing is a world-wide issue, Mexico is responsible for 60 percent of all hammerhead shark fin exports, with China being its largest customer.
“Population numbers are calculated through yearly capture volumes,” he said, adding that shark captures have fallen off by between 60 percent and 90 percent along Mexico’s coasts, including the Pacific region.
Although shark fishing is pursued worldwide, hammerhead sharks are by far the most prized catch and are being specifically targeted in Mexico.
Consumption of shark fin soup in Asia seems to be solely a cultural phenomenon, as science has failed to attribute any special property to it and it is reportedly quite bland or even tasteless.
The situation has worsened in recent decades as Asia has experienced rising economic growth and the number of “people who were able to afford this type of food went up,” prompting an increase in shark fishing.
“It was said at some point that up to 73 million sharks are caught for yearly consumption in Asia,” the biologist said.
“Hammerhead” is term used for a large number of shark subspecies of similar characteristics, most notably the laterally elongated shape of the head somewhat resembling the head of a hammer.