Wildlife trade threatens many exploited populations with unsustainable levels of extraction. The shark fin trade is perceived as a primary driver in the decline of many shark populations. The targeting of sharks by local fisheries to feed the demand for shark fins is contributing significantly to this decline. Yet despite this, the structure of the commodity chain from artisanal and traditional fisheries remains ambiguous. This study investigates the structure
and operation of the shark fin trade in northern Madagascar in an attempt to generate locally relevant socio-economic information and meliorate national conservation management.
A combination of direct observation and semi-structured interviews was used to identify: the different types of actors along the commodity chain; trade routes; means of access and control; and patterns of price and income. Attempts were made to identify those species most heavily exploited by the trade.
A baseline commodity chain analysis reveals that domestic prices for shark fins have increased dramatically over the past 15 years. Anecdotal reports of declines in shark populations are worrying, as are reports of heavy species-specific exploitation. The shark fin
commodity chain is interlinked with another high value resource chain for the trade in sea cucumbers. This study highlights the pressing need for further research to determine the socio-economic importance of these resources to local communities. Furthermore, there is some evidence to suggest that the best entry point along the shark fin commodity chain for conservation intervention would be the targeting of “middlemen” and commercial traders. However, decisive action at a national, regional and international scale is needed to ensure the future sustainability of shark fisheries in Madagascar.