Monday, January 16, 2012

Saving Fiji's Sharks!

At risk: Fiji's Reef Sharks - click for detail

Please read this article by Helen.
Helen is not only a good friend and one of Fiji's most intelligent and most efficient marine conservationists, she is also currently managing the Fiji Shark Sanctuary campaign for CORAL and Pew.

What she highlights is a rather recent and deeply disturbing development.
Owing to its airline connections to Asia and a thriving Tuna processing industry, Fiji has long been one of the principal Shark fin hubs in the SoPac. In the past, the traded annual volume of more than 100 metric tons consisted principally of fins that were being offloaded from the longliners, most of which are foreign distant water vessels that hail from Taiwan. The commercial benefit to the country is practically zero as the crews simply take the money and then sail away, leaving Fiji and its neighbors to deal with the ecological consequences.

This was filmed at a prominent Tuna processing plant in Lami.

This is however not the fishery Helen is talking about.
We are increasingly witnessing incidences where local fishermen are targeting Fiji's coastal Sharks. The driver for this fishery is the demand for the fins by Asian middlemen that have traditionally been associated with the bêche-de-mer trade. Fiji's sea cucumbers are heavily over-exploited, to the point where volumes and thus revenues are plummeting, and this has led the traders who already dispose of a network of excellent connections to coastal communities all across the country to diversify into Shark fins, with devastating consequences for local Shark stocks. The trade extends to most of the remote islands where aggregator vessels are known to sail from village to village and barter for the fins. Prices mentioned are as ridiculously low as one bag of sugar against three bags of fins.

As always, the ultimate losers will be the fishermen themselves.
Each qoliqoli only harbors a very limited amount of Sharks that will be quickly wiped out, meaning that the local fishing grounds will be deprived of their most important keystone species, with catastrophic and practically irreversible consequences for the reef fish communities. In brief, the fishermen are trading tiny short-term profits for very severe long-term effects that could well impact the livelihoods of generations to come.

Possibly education - but with so many people trying to make ends meet, money will always prevail. Ultimately, only a full Sanctuary with draconian laws will save Fiji's local fisheries and preserve the long-term sustainability, and thus the way of life of our coastal communities.


The Sharkman said...

Real sad news. What are the chances of getting total shark protection in Fiji? How can we help?

DaShark said...

Thank you Alex

From what I understand it is now up to the Government to state what they wish to do. Things I believe are looking good - but it aint over til the fat lady sings.
Fingers crossed!

The campaign has been stellar and you can add to its reach by taking the pledge here.