How the tuna we buy is killing sharks in Indonesia – ‘The big problem is a total lack of management regulations for most shark species – no catch quotas, no minimum sizes, and no fishing bans’Posted by Jim at Monday, September 15, 2014
By Johnny Langenheim
15 September 2014
(theguardian.com) – The tuna fishermen use a crane to lift the clutch of frozen sharks onto a flat bed truck backed up on the edge of the wharf at Benoa harbour in Bali, Indonesia. The sharks’ heads and dorsal fins are missing, but the crane operator obligingly tells me what species they are – hammerhead, saw tooth, and oceanic white tip.
More loads follow, including five canvas bags packed with fins destined for soup. Much of the shark meat will be processed for the domestic market – but the tuna is destined for consumers in Europe, America and Japan, few of whom realise they’re implicated in the killing of sharks on a massive scale.
Scores of boats like this dock here every week – there are more than 33,000 purse seiners operating in Indonesia, the world’s number one producer of tuna. The shark are technically bycatch, but they’d be more accurately described as valuable byproduct. And the sheer numbers being caught are shocking.
Even more alarming is the fact that all three of the shark species mentioned above are on the IUCN’s red list of endangered species. There are many other ‘hub’ ports in this sprawling archipelagic nation of 250m where sharks are offloaded in similar numbers both for export and domestic consumption.
Indonesia catches on average 109,000 tonnes of shark per year, giving it the dubious distinction of being the world’s biggest shark fishery. And it’s the country’s tuna industry that’s largely responsible for driving it.
“Many conservation efforts have focused on small-scale artisanal fisheries,” says Andrew Harvey, the Sustainable Fisheries team leader for USAid’s Indonesia Marine & Climate Support (IMACS) project. “But the industrial fishing fleets also have an important impact on shark populations. The big problem is a total lack of management regulations for most shark species — no catch quotas, no minimum sizes, and no fishing bans.”
There is evidence that a combination of campaigning and legislation is reducing demand for shark fins in Hong Kong and Mainland China. But shark flesh is an important source of protein for many coastal communities in Indonesia and the meat is sold everywhere including in supermarkets. There are also signs of an upsurge in the sale of baby sharks, which are routinely stocked by many of the big supermarket chains. Sharks have long reproductive cycles so targeting juveniles can have a destructive impact on wild populations. […]
But widespread, definitive action on sharks has yet to take place.
Currently, only whale shark, thresher and saw tooth are protected under Indonesian law (Cites protection only applies to the export of endangered species). Hammerheads and oceanic white tips should soon follow suit.
These are all first steps – gathering and assessing baseline data, establishing policies, protecting a few key ecosystems. But the big challenge is enforcement in a maritime nation made up of more than 17,000 islands where tens of millions of people rely on fishing for their livelihood. [more]