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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Now the hunter has become the hunted: warnings that the end is near for sharks

Now the hunter has become the hunted: warnings that the end is near for sharks
SOUTH AFRICA: Illegal fin hunters blamed for extinction fears, by Fred Bridgland in Cape Town
Sunday Herald, 14 March

NEARLY TWO tonnes of dried shark fins - from at least 100 sharks caught at sea - found in the hold of a Taiwanese fishing vessel in Cape Town harbour have shed light on a trade that is driving the top hunter of the oceans towards extinction.

The South African permit for the Chien Jiu, whose 26 crew members are being held pending trial, was for the acquisition of just 100 kilos of shark fin. Under international regulations, the Chien Jiu's skipper was also required by maritime officials to produce the entire body of each shark from which fins were taken: he was unable to do so.

"Our oceans are being emptied of sharks, and the scale of the problem is global," said Julia Baum, a scientist at California's Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She added: "We are looking at a high risk of extinction of some shark species over the next few years. The loss of top predators such as sharks can damage whole marine ecosystems."

In a quasi-legal trade, linked to Chinese Triad gangs, the fins - selling at US$700 a kilo - are exported into various corners of Asian affluence where bowls of shark fin soup, reputed to offer medicinal and aphrodisiac qualities, are dished up at $200 a time.

Great white and hammerhead sharks have been reduced in numbers by 70% in the last 15 years, while others, such as the silky white tip, have disappeared from the Caribbean, according to the late Dr Ransom Myers, a marine biologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Compagno said shark species can take up to 20 years to reach sexual maturity and give birth to only a few young at a time. As the top predators at the apex of reef systems, sharks keep the ecological balance, he said. "By eliminating sharks, you pull the plug on the reefs, resulting in overpopulation, overgrazing and overfeeding by other reef dwellers."

1 comment:

Samuel Mok said...

So shark fin is actually what the European discard? Are we fighting for the wrong cause?

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