Efforts are On to Stop the Killing of Sharks

Ten months after releasing a report revealing the planet’s top 20 shark-fishing catchers, the Pew Environment Group is expressing concern about new images and video taken in Taiwan that detail the expansive and unregulated nature of shark fishing globally.

The depictions show fins and body parts of biologically vulnerable shark species, such as scalloped hammerhead and oceanic whitetip, being readied for market, Pew said today, Oct. 19.

“These images present a snapshot of the immense scale of shark-fishing operations and show the devastation resulting from the lack of science-based management of sharks,” said Matt Rand, director of global shark conservation at the Pew Environment Group.

“Unfortunately, since there are no limits on the number of these animals that can be killed in the open ocean, this activity can continue unabated.”

The movement to ban the trade and sale of shark fin products has gained an impressive roster of noteworthy supporters including Leonardo DiCaprio, James Cameron, Wolfgang Puck, Gordon Ramsey, Richard Branson, Yao Ming, Mario Batali, Edward Norton, and Chinese billionaire Zhang Yue. (Read: Call to Ban Shark Fins Gains Celeb Support)

Meanwhile, sharks in The Bahamas can breathe more easily after the nation’s government announced recently that all commercial shark fishing in the approximately 630,000 square kilometers (243,244 square miles) of the country’s waters is now prohibited. (Read: Now Bahamas Acts to Protect Sharks)

The report by Pew and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, listed Taiwan as having the fourth-largest number of reported shark catches in the world after Indonesia, India, and Spain. Those four account for more than 35 percent of total global landings.

The demand for shark fins, meat, liver oil, and other products has driven some populations of these animals to the brink of extinction. Up to 73 million sharks are killed annually to support the global trade in their fins.

[ Also Read: Shark Populations Dwindle; Face Extinction ]

The International Union for Conservation of Nature assessed in its Red List of Threatened Species that 30 percent of shark populations around the world are Threatened or Near Threatened with extinction. Since sharks are top predators, their depletion also has risks for the health of entire ocean ecosystems.

“This strip-mining of the world’s sharks is clearly unsustainable, and governments need to act now if these predators are to swim the world’s oceans in the future,” said Rand.

To address the overfishing of sharks, governments should immediately:

  • Establish shark sanctuaries, just as the Marshall Islands, Palau, the Maldives, Honduras, the Bahamas and Tokelau have done, where the animals are fully protected from exploitation.
  • End fishing of sharks for which science-based management plans are not in place or for those that are threatened or near threatened with extinction.
  • Devise and implement an effective national plan of action for the conservation and management of sharks.
  • Eliminate shark bycatch, the accidental catch of a species during targeted fishing for other species.

The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a nongovernmental organization that works globally to establish pragmatic, science-based policies that protect oceans, preserve wildlands, and promote clean energy.

RMN News

Rakesh Raman