Global shift toward shark conservation

This week Nature Seychelles’ CEO Nirmal Shah spoke to the Seychelles Broadcasting Co. (SBC) about shark fishing in Seychelles and the need for shark conservation. SBC felt that Seychellois needed more information on the status of sharks because of the fearsome reputation of these creatures, because shark meat is traditionally used in Seychellois cuisine and because shark fins are a valuable source of foreign currency.
Seychelles has banned the use of set gill nets for shark fishing, enacted specific legislation to ban hunting of the whale shark and recently introduced new legislation to control shark fining. Nature Seychelles strongly supports these measures.

As pressure to safeguard the world’s sharks increases in countries around the world, the European Union recently took steps towards the introduction of protection for two endangered shark species. At a recent meeting of the European Commission’s CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Committee support was given to a proposal to protect two European shark species under the auspices of CITES.
Passed by the committee the proposal will now go to the Conference of the Parties to CITES, in June this year.
If accepted the proposal would give international protection to spiny dogfish and porbeagle sharks, both of which are caught to supply European demand for fish and Asian demand for shark fins. Both shark species are listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Even in small island states, heavily reliant on fisheries for food security, such as Seychelles, national governments and environmental non-governmental organisations, have pushed shark protection up the political agenda.
The Seychelles authorities recently introduced non-species specific legislation forcing foreign shark fishers to land complete shark carcasses, not just fins, in a move intended to safeguard shark stocks. And pressure is building for a blanket ban on shark fishing, to mirror the country’s stance on sea turtle fishing. Shark meat has traditionally formed a limited part of the national diet, with Seychelles’ rich tropical waters providing a wide range of fish more popular as food items.
However, the burgeoning East Asian market for shark fins has encouraged local fishers to focus there attention on sharks and resulted in the highly destructive practice of sharks being caught, their fins removed and the sometimes still living sharks being thrown back to sea to drown. Seychelles’ authorities are hoping that by forcing fishers to land whole sharks they will limit the numbers caught and prevent the species targeted from becoming over fished.
The removal of the ocean’s apex predators disrupts the food web as it prevents the removal of sick and old prey species.More importantly, it allows an overall expansion in the numbers of prey species, which in turn over-predate their prey species, potentially resulting in an eventual food web collapse.
“This has important impacts on the environment and on people. Seychelles relies on small scale local fishers, targeting reef fish species, to supply food. If the food chain is disrupted and reef fish numbers drop, Seychelles will have serious difficulties in meeting its food requirements,” warned Nature Seychelles’ CEO Nirmal Shah on the SBC program.

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