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Shark fin availability lessens on China-based website

January 22, 2009 |  9:15 am

In this undated photo, a group of hammerhead sharks swim in the waters surrounding the Pacific islet of Malpelo, a Colombian wildlife sanctuary.

Efforts to halt the open sale of shark fins on a global-marketplace website seem to be paying off.

Shark Diver reports that attempts to purchase shark fins on Alibaba.com earlier this week were met with less success than previously. Of the 10 sellers contacted, only two responded.  This is a decline from early January when Shark Diver, using its company name and doing nothing covert, contacted 11 sellers via the website and received responses from nine that fins could be purchased, even though the site stated these sales were going to be removed. 

"Closing down the channels of commerce is the trick," said Shark Diver CEO Patric Douglas. "This is a good first step, and I'm cautiously optimistic that they get it."

"Given where they [Alibaba.com] were to where they are now is a victory. It all starts with one," added Douglas. "This is like a million army ants taking down an elephant, but as one domino falls, we move on to the next." Other websites that Douglas referred to as alleged shark-fin selling points are TradeKey.com and ecplaza.net.

"Finning" is the practice of slicing the fins off of live sharks then throwing their bodies overboard, where they sink to the ocean floor and die.

All sharks are at risk, with the larger fins commanding a higher price. Fins from basking sharks can fetch as much as 1,000% more due to the size, for display in store windows. There has been a huge loss of West Coast blue sharks reported in California, and it was not until recent tagging revealed that these sharks were migrating seasonally to Japan and back, though many never did make the trip back.

--Kelly Burgess

Photo: In this undated photo, hammerhead sharks swim in the waters surrounding the Pacific islet of Malpelo, a Colombian wildlife sanctuary. Credit: Yves Lefebre/Associated Press

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