1902 Encyclopedia > Shark > Sharks: Economic Uses.

(Part 9)

(E) ECONOMIC USES OF SHARKS. -- A few words have to be added with reference to the economic uses of these group of fishes. Their utility to man is insignificant in comparison with the havoc they commit among food-fishes and at fisheries, and with the loss of life which is cause by the larger kinds.

As mentioned above, some of the smaller dog-fishes are eaten at certain seasons by the captors, and by the poorer classes of the population. An inferior kind of oil, chiefly used for the adulteration of code-liver oil, is extracted on some of the northern fishing-stations from the liver of the spiked dog-fishes, and occasionally of the larger sharks.

Cabinet-makers make extensive use of shark’s-skin under the name of "shagreen" the smoothing or polishing wood. This shagreen is obtained from species (such as our dog-fishes) whose skin is covered with small, pointed, closelyset, calcified papillae, whilst very rough skins, in which the papillae are large or blunt, are useless for this purpose.

The dried fins of sharks (and of rays) form in India and China an important article of trade, the Chinese preparing gelatin from them, and using the better sort for culinary purposes. They are assorted in two kinds, viz., "white" and "black." The former consist exclusively of the dorsal fins, which are on both sides of the same light colour, and reputed to yield more gelatin than the outer fins. The pectoral, ventral, and anal fins constitute the "black" sort ; the caudal are not used.

One of the principal places where shark fishing is practiced as a profession is Kurrachee [Karachi], and the principal kinds of sharks caught there are species of Carcharias, Galeocerdo, and Zygaena. Dr. Buist, writing in 1850, states that there are thirteen large boats, with crews of twelve men each, constantly employed in this pursuit, that the value of the fins set to the market varies from 15,000 to 18,000 rupees, that a boat will capture sometimes at a drought as many as a hundred sharks of various sizes, and that the number of sharks captured annually amounts probably to not less than 40,000. Large quantities are imported from the African coast and the Arabian Gulf, and various ports on the coast of India. In the year 1845-46 8770 cwt. of sharks’ fins were exported from Bombay to China. (A. C. G.)

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The above article was written by: Albert Charles Lewis Gotthilf Guenther, M.A., M.D., Ph.D., F.R.S.; formerly Keeper of Zoological Department, British Museum; author of Catalogues of Colubrine Snakes, Batrachia salientia, and Fishes of the British Museum, Reptiles of British India, Fishes of Zanzibar, Reports on the "Challenger" Fishes, etc.

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