Yes, shark products, including shark fin, can legally be sold anywhere in the world with a few exceptions. There is a growing movement to ban the sale of shark fin products. Currently, it is illegal to trade, possess and sell shark fin in: Guam, Saipan, Toronto (and several outlying cities), Hawaii, Washington, California, Illinois, and legislation is proposed in many other states. To learn more, visit our partner Fin Free (www.fin-free.org).
Three species (whale, basking, white) are also restricted in international trade by the United Nations Convention on the Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) signed by 175 nations. These species are on Appendix II, meaning the trade of whale, basking, or white shark products requires the appropriate permits. The participating countries are responsible for enforcing the treaty's provisions and imposing penalties upon individuals caught illegally smuggling products.
Additionally, certain countries also protect specific species, for instance, in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and the State of California, it is illegal to sell any white shark products (and furthermore, harm a white shark), as the white shark is a protected species. A growing number of countries protect the basking shark and whale shark nationally as well. Australia also protects the grey nurse shark also known as the raggedtooth or sand tiger shark within its territorial waters.
However, legal protection does not imply these animals are truly protected. For instance, in South Africa, the Natal Sharks Board who operate the shark nets are permitted to catch and kill white sharks, and it is a widely known fact South Africa has an illegal fishing problem, with commercial and recreational fishermen alike catching white sharks to feed a growing international black market for white shark jaws, fins, and teeth.
Furthermore, many countries are engaged in either trading or supplying shark fin. More than 100 countries are involved in the business of trading in shark fins with most exporting to the main consumer nations: mainland China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand. The United States and the European Union also import significant quantities to local Chinese communities.
Hong Kong handles 50% – 80% of the world trade in shark fin. And the major suppliers might surprise you: Europe, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, the United States, India, Japan, Mexico, Yemen, and United Arab Emirates.
A third of all fins imported to Hong Kong come from Europe. Spain is by far the largest supplier, but Norway, Britain, France, Portugal, and Italy are also major suppliers.