Fiji is set to put in place a landmark fisheries policy to ban all shark finning in the country and address the alarming decline of sharks. Department of Fisheries and Forests permanent secretary Commander Viliame Naupoto says the ban would be similar to laws that currently protect turtles. The proposed new law would ban the trade of all shark fins and other products derived from any type of shark that is captured in Fiji waters. The ban only affects trade and does not stop villagers from consuming shark meat. However shark meat is not a regular diet for Fijians in villagers – although it is available in Fish and Chips shops in urban centres. Sharks are also held sacred as the totem animals or Vu of the people of Cakaudrove and other islands. Commander Naupoto says sharks play a critical role within the marine ecosystem by controlling the population of certain marine species. He adds the emerging market in shark tourism has huge potential as an economic exchange earner and as employment for locals – and sharks are more valuable alive than dead. Beqa Adventure Divers director and shark conservationist Mike Neumann highlighted that Beqa Adventure Divers generated about $3million in direct and indirect revenue that were all invested in Fiji. Fiji will be the first Melanesian country to approve such a law. source: radiofiji.com.fj
Fiji is set to put in place a landmark fisheries policy to ban all shark finning in the country and address the alarming decline of sharks.
Department of Fisheries and Forests permanent secretary Commander Viliame Naupoto says the ban would be similar to laws that currently protect turtles.
The proposed new law would ban the trade of all shark fins and other products derived from any type of shark that is captured in Fiji waters.
The ban only affects trade and does not stop villagers from consuming shark meat.
However shark meat is not a regular diet for Fijians in villagers – although it is available in Fish and Chips shops in urban centres.
Sharks are also held sacred as the totem animals or Vu of the people of Cakaudrove and other islands.
Commander Naupoto says sharks play a critical role within the marine ecosystem by controlling the population of certain marine species.
He adds the emerging market in shark tourism has huge potential as an economic exchange earner and as employment for locals – and sharks are more valuable alive than dead.
Beqa Adventure Divers director and shark conservationist Mike Neumann highlighted that Beqa Adventure Divers generated about $3million in direct and indirect revenue that were all invested in Fiji.
Fiji will be the first Melanesian country to approve such a law.
Pigeon? Shark? I know the two rarely share the same linguistic sentence but they may well share the same life sentence. When Europeans first arrived in North America there were an estimated 5 billion carrier pigeons on the continent. During the 19th it was estimated that they were the most abundant bird species on the planet, by the early 19th century the American Carrier Pigeon was extinct. The last pigeon died in Cincinnati Zoo on the 1st Sept 1914. How could this have possibly happened? One word – hunting. The carrier pigeons displayed the unfortunate behaviour of flocking and nesting in huge numbers making hunting very easy. With the arrival of Europeans, came the popularisation of pigeon meat and the beginning of large scale hunting.
As pigeons were so abundant and easy to kill they became cheap and often the only meat available to the poor. Hunting occurred on such a scale that the population decline was catastrophically fast. In 1878 one of the last large nesting grounds was at Petoskey in Michigan. At this site the hunt went on every day for five months with 50,000 pigeons dying a day – the nesting site was wiped out in one season. In 1896, the final flock of 250,000 were killed by the hunters knowing that it was the last flock of that size. Ok this is a tragedy, but that was over a hundred years ago, surely we have learnt from this right? Wrong. So this is where our friend the Oceanic White Tip Shark comes in to the story. In 1969 scientists described the shark as being “extraordinarily abundant, perhaps the most abundant large animal, large being over 100 pounds, on the face of the earth”. See where this is going? Well that was 40 years ago, the situation is very different today. Globally the species is now listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, that is that it has experienced a population decline of 50% over the past 10 year (or three generations). In the Northwest and Western Central Atlantic they are listed as Critically Endangered having experienced population declines of over 90% and an analysis of the Gulf of Mexico actually showed a population decline of 99.3% between the 1950’s and 1990. How did this happen and what are we doing about it? Oceanic White Tips are (as their name suggests) oceanic and usually found far offshore. This is where part of the problem lies; their prime habitat are international waters and not those of individual countries territorial waters, as a result they are offered little protection and are caught in large numbers virtually everywhere they occur. The sharks are caught both intentionally by shark longliners and unintentionally by tuna and swordfish longliners. Either way their large fins, destined for shark fin soup, are highly valued and their capture is a financial boon whether intended or not.
In 2010 the U.S and Palau proposed that the species be listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) treaty, the listing would regulate but not ban the trade in these species - a step in the right direction. However such is the political sway that these fisheries hold that parties failed to vote in favour of the proposition. Failed by the people and organisations who are supposed to protect them, the Oceanic White Tip Shark is left to swim into the history books and join the American Carrier Pigeon in the great species scrapheap. That is unless we act fast and decisively; alleviate the pressure and nature has a remarkable ability to bounce back. An immediate outright ban in the trade of Oceanic White Tip Shark fins is not only doable (they’re white tipped and huge, not hard to mistake for anything else) but would provide the much needed relief that the species need.
Covering more than 70% of the planet, but less than 1% protected, we are taking advantage of the oceans. There is no way it can continue to be a fruitful relationship.
Via Mad as a Marine Biologist
A marine biologist rant
Right. So last year, The United States pushed to ban the international trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Not surprisingly though, the proposal was defeated at the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species after intense lobbying against the plan by Japan and some European nations. I wonder if a single adult bluefin tuna selling for upwards of US$50,000 has anything to do with it?
Anyway, the US on Friday now rejected calls to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna as an endangered species, saying that while it was worried about overfishing it did not fear “imminent extinction”. Huh. It did not fear imminent extinction.
There is countless research and warnings from scientists and environmental groups. I don’t get it. Do governments think scientists have a vendetta against seafood and will find any excuse to class marine life as ‘endangered’?
The WWF has estimated that Atlantic Bluefin Tuna will go extinct by 2012 - that’s next year - if overfishing of the species continues. Where was that pulled from? Obviously it must be WWF making up OTT statistics again - I’m sure the panda is fine too.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said they would put Atlantic bluefin tuna on a watchlist of species at risk, but would not classify it under the Endangered Species Act, which would bring legal protections. Because God forbid - legal protections!
Eric Schwaab, a senior official at this agency said: “Based on careful scientific review, we have decided the best way to ensure the long-term sustainability of bluefin tuna is through international cooperation and strong domestic fishery management”.
What I get from that is they really need international cooperation if bluefin tuna is ever going to be protected. Well, I agree - the Japanese demand for sushi and sashimi alone drives 40% of the market. But Mr. Schwaab, whats that about “strong domestic fishery management”? I agree with that too, but if you aren’t going to legally list the animal as endangered how do you propose to manage it without the power to?
This is what is going to happen now. Our buddy Mr. Schwaab and his administration pledge to review their decision in early 2013. And rightly so, as they didn’t take into full account the effects of last year’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico - a bluefin tuna breeding ground. However, this date is a year after estimated extinction.
I don’t know which I find more concerning - the fact that another creature on our planet is hanging by a thread, or that short-term profits and fancy-pants sushi has more value in todays society than the mere existence of species.
Hong Kong took an important step this Friday towards restoring it’s seriously depleted waters and protecting it’s marine natural heritage. After more than 5 years of pressure from environmental groups such as WWF the Chinese province banned the use of bottom and mid-water trawling and created a US$2.5 billion fund to buyout the 400 trawler owners and their deckhands. Bottom trawling is a hugely destructive and un-selective form of fishing that involves dragging a chain and net along the seabed in order to catch bottom dwelling species. The process results in entire destruction of the seabed and significant amounts of by-catch. Mid-water trawling is less physically destructive but equally un-selective and leads to worrying levels of bycatch.
Studies in Canada have demonstrated that five years after the implementation of a trawling ban populations of squid and cuttlefish rose by 35% and reef fish numbers increased by 20%. In fact Hong Kong is not the only place to implement trawling bans; last month Belize outlawed all trawling techniques within it’s waters whilst countries such as Brazil, Malaysia, Australia and Canada have long established no-trawl zones within their waters. WWF says it welcomes the decision but worries about the governments ability to tackle illegal trawling. I only hope that other countries around the world follow in Hong Kong’s footsteps and that we can eventually see the last of this terribly destructive and wasteful practice.
If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change– Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
I thought I’d kick off this blog on a light note. Filmed this rather confused White Eye Moray Eel on a dive off Mabul a few weeks back.