Sunday, November 29, 2009

Biofuel - from Sharks?

Well well.

Some rocket scientists in Greenland are proposing to convert Greenland Sharks into biofuel.
Apparently they are caught by the thousands when fishing for Greenland Halibut and discarded since their meat is toxic. Ragnhildur Gunnarsdóttir and Marianne Willemoes Jørgensen of ARTEK believe that they could be converted into biogas for the inuit.

Apparently, a majority of the population concurs, the more as the Sharks are considered a pest that devours fish, squid, seals and other marine life, and it also ruins the lines and nets of the halibut fishermen, according to, unsurprisingly, the head of Greenland's hunting and fishing association.
And then, I read this.

Aksel Blytmann, a consultant at Greenland's fishing and hunting association, says the shark could turn out to be an "unexpected energy source."
He explained that Uummannaq once paid a 200-Danish-kroner (26-euro, 38-dollar) reward to fishermen for a shark heart in order to keep their numbers down. Other municipalities in the northwestern and western parts of Greenland still continue this practice, he said.
The species "swarms in the Arctic waters and is not in danger of extinction," Blytmann claimed.

It fatally reminds me of what they used to, and still do to wolves: to demonize them and then, to put a bounty on their head (or legs), allowing some trigger happy morons to go killing them in unethical, and possibly illegal ways.

Thing is, contrary to wolves where there may indeed be a need for controlling some populations, Greenland Sharks are listed as near threatened by the IUCN.
The justification for it is that apart from having limited reproductive capacity like most Sharks, this is a deepwater species that grows extremely slowly and at an estimated 200 years, may well be one of the longest-living vertebrates (this is a fascinating link - read it!).
Does anybody really believe that the Arctic Ocean has the carrying capacity for "swarms" of gigantic Sharks, or that evolution has selected for high fecundity in an animal that can live for centuries? Killing thousands of slow breeding apex predators is an ecological catastrophe that needs to be stopped, not exploited!
Orange Roughy anybody?

Far from being visionary, or whatever, this so-called eco-venture is a plan from hell.
If implemented, it will generate new demand for Greenland Sharks who will inevitably become one of the principal targets for the Greenland fishermen, rather than being mere bycatch like they are now.
What really needs to happen is not to find ways of exploiting, and thus targeting them, but instead, to limit the baycatch by forcing the fishermen to adopt adequate protocols. No idea what those may be - but that's why we're paying fisheries biologists and donating hard earned $$$ to those NGOs - right?

Keep watching this space as this stupidity unfolds.

Hat tip: Tafa thanks for the heads-up.

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