Globally, shark fishing does not have a good reputation in many circles due to bad publicity. The reality is that roughly 90% of shark fin is attained as a by-product of the shark meat industry. Shark, in most cases is the most utilised fish in the ocean. The shark is targeted for its meat, known as 'flake', with the fins used as a delicacy, and cartilage (skeleton) used in some medicinal suppliments and in some cases even the skin is used for leather.
The full utilisation of the shark is not found in any other fish species of this size in the world. An example of value is that it will take approximately 12 sharks (up to 1 metre) to produce 1kg of wet shark fin which has a recovery of approximately 13% of wet weight when dried, skinned and ready to use.
Using an average value to the fishermen who may receive $7.50 per kg of flake at the fish market will receive approximately 4kg at $7.50, which is $30. On the other hand he will only receive $20 per kg for wet fin which equals $1.60 per shark. (12 sharks = 1kg of fin = $20 from 12 sharks = $1.60 per shark)
The labour involved in removing 12 sets of shark fin for $1.60 is quite significant and not economically viable unless it is a utilised by-product of the fish.
The main problem stems from fishermen, especially from overseas where wages are extremely low and target large shark just to take their fins and dump the carcass. This is simply not good practice. Australian prawn trawlers now use turtle excluders on their nets which also excludes most shark from the catch.