Indonesia’s Shark Fin


In the city of Pangkalpinang, Bangka Belitung Province, a disconcerting practice unfolds almost daily as workers engage in the cutting of numerous sharks from 5 am to 8 am at a traditional market. The shark-cutting activities take place on the worn floor of the market, creating a somber scene, with workers diligently separating the meat from the fins—a crucial distinction given the differing market values.

This long-standing tradition, largely unknown to many, involves the gathering, drying, and exporting of shark fins to Asian countries, including Hong Kong, Singapore, and China. The shark meat is sold locally, finding its way into soups and fish balls, fetching a price of IDR 35,000 per kilogram. The consumers span the city of Pangkalpinang and extend beyond the borders of Bangka Belitung Province.

Shark fin prices are detailed by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the Republic of Indonesia, ranging from IDR 35,000 per kilogram for fins measuring 15 to 20 centimeters, with an incremental increase of approximately IDR 250,000 for every 5-centimeter addition in length. The most extended shark fin, measuring 40 centimeters, commands a price of around IDR 1,400,000 per kilogram.

However, the environmental consequences of this practice are significant, given sharks’ crucial role as top predators in the marine ecosystem. Globally, about 90% of shark populations have experienced drastic declines due to overfishing, intentional or not. Indonesia, as the world’s leading shark-catching and supplying country, contributes to this decline, representing an estimated 12.31% of world production.

In 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recorded a substantial volume of shark and ray products from Indonesia, totaling 103,245 tons per year, up from 91,247 tons per year in 2008. The depletion of shark populations and the inclusion of some species, such as guitar stingrays, in the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix II underlines the urgent need for conservation measures to protect these marine species from further depletion.

As the shark-cutting activities persist, they serve as a stark reminder of the delicate balance between economic pursuits and environmental preservation, prompting calls for sustainable practices and conservation efforts to safeguard the health of the oceans and the species that inhabit them.