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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Too few sharks is a bad thing

This article really made me depressed.

The unsustainable rate at which sharks are being exploited for shark fin not only affects the species and the ecosystem, but it also ends up affecting the livelihood of poor fishermen all over the world.

The fishermen get only a small percentage of the end value of the shark fin eventhough it increases in value from middleman to middleman until it ends up on our tables. And to what end? We exploit and deplete the major protein source for the third world with our ridiculous demand for this "luxury" item.

Why isn't there a worldwide program for the conservation of sharks!!
MADAGASCAR: Too few sharks is a bad thing
TOLIARA, 4 December 2008 (IRIN), UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Coastal communities in southwestern Madagascar, who risk their lives travelling long distances in dugout canoes to supply a lucrative demand for shark fins, face an uncertain future as unsustainable fishing practices threaten the survival of the marine resources on which they depend.

When shark fisherman Zoffe loads his nets into his pirogue (a dugout canoe, often with a sail) in the morning and sets out from his home in the coastal town of Morombe into the deep waters of the Mozambique Channel, he knows that he will be lucky if he catches anything. "It is really hard to catch shark now," Zoffe told IRIN.

"Things are not like they used to be; before, there used to be shark very near the shore - just five metres below the surface of the sea - now they are only found very far away, and are very deep. They are very difficult to catch."

Demand for shark fin in China, where the meat is considered a delicacy, and for sea cucumbers, which are believed to be an aphrodisiac, have become major sources of income in Madagascar, which exports up to 20 tonnes of shark fins every year. A kilogram can fetch as much as 140,000 ariary ($56) on local markets, and up to $1,000 in China.

Madagascar has a long way to go in protecting its marine resources. "It is very difficult to stop fishermen from catching shark and collecting sea cucumbers," said Rabenevanana. "These fishermen are poor and the attraction of fishing for sharks and sea cucumbers is huge. If we truly want to protect our resources we must address the market. We must do more to discourage the Chinese from eating shark fin soup; perhaps we can even find an alternative."

There are no conservation programmes in place to protect sharks. "It is not a sustainable fishery because it is not properly regulated," Volanirina Ramahery, of the World Wide Fund for Nature, an environmental NGO, told IRIN.

The decline of the primary predator could unbalance the entire marine food chain. Studies in the Caribbean have shown that too few sharks mean other carnivorous species increase and eat too many other useful fish, such as those keeping algae on the coral in check, which can eventually endanger the entire reef ecosystem.

"The disappearance of sharks would have devastating impacts on marine habitats and the local communities that depend on these," Frances Humber, a marine biologist studying shark populations in southern and western Madagascar with the British conservation organisation, Blue Ventures, told IRIN.

"A collapse in the shark fishing industry could threaten the economic stability of the region, and would mean the loss of livelihoods for thousands of fisherman."

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