Prices and sales of shark fin have fallen between 50-70 percent in China - its largest market - a new report by WildAid released Tuesday has found, in a victory for animal rights campaigners.
Shark fin soup can fetch up to $100 a bowl in China, and is normally seen as such a luxury it is only served at weddings and banquets. It saw a huge surge in consumption during the nation's economic boom period in the mid-2000s.
However, extensive media campaigns designed to educate diners of the consequences of eating shark fin and government action to ban shark fin from state banquets late last year has provoked huge declines in demand and prices.
The report logged an 82 percent decline in sales reported by shark fin vendors in Guangzhou - considered the center of shark fin trade - over the past two years.
"The government has taken action and they've made a huge impact. China is very often painted with a harsh brush in terms of the environment but there are people trying to do things about it and the public is very concerned. A 50-70 percent reduction is massive, we're talking tens of millions of sharks," said Peter Knights, executive director of WildAid.
Consumption of shark fin soup has been blamed for the sharp deterioration of the global shark population in the last 15 years, data from WildAid's report showed. It estimates 100 million sharks are killed each year, with up to 73 million used for their fins, with the bulk of demand coming from mainland China.
WildAid has launched a string of media campaigns in recent years - featuring celebrity ambassadors including Chinese basketball player Yao Ming, actor Jackie Chan and footballer David Beckham.
Furthermore, 24 airlines, three shipping lines, and five hotel groups operating in China have officially banned shark fin from their operations as well.
"The more people learn about the consequences of eating shark fin soup, the less they want to participate in the trade," added Knights.
According to survey data cited in the WildAid report, 85 percent of Chinese consumers gave up shark fin soup in the past three years, with two thirds of these respondents citing awareness campaigns and around 28 percent said the government banquet ban was the primary reason.
Prices have also suffered a severe knock as a result of the dampened demand as well. Retailers in Guangzhou who were selling medium size shark fins for as much as $642 per kilogram are now only able to charge half as much, the report found.
Fisherman in Tanjung Luar, a fishing village on the east coast of Lombok, Indonesia, a hotspot for shark fishing, complained that they had seen an 80 percent reduction in the prices they received for shark fins since 2007, the report said.
Meanwhile, another factor impacting shark fin demand has been the increasing suspicion of fake shark fins being sold at restaurants, the report found. A total of 43 percent of the online survey respondents said they thought much of the shark fin market in China was artificial.
The report entitled 'Evidence of Declines in Shark Fin Demand, China' compiled public opinion surveys, surveys from shark fin vendors and traders in the markets of Guangzhou, along with surveys of shark fin price data from Indonesian shark fishermen, as well as trade statistics and media reports.