Sunday, September 09, 2012

Fiji: Shark Fishing, Finning and Trade!

And I cite, minimally abridged

It is important to note that this review of available information has relied largely on documents discoverable through internet searching. Further information and insights on management of sharks in the countries concerned may be available through direct contact with the management agencies concerned. It is important to note that this study did not cross check data from major importers with reported export data from the countries considered in this analysis.

Country Profile: Fiji 
  • Catch data (metric tonnes, 2011)
    Blue: 374; Mako: 180; OWT: 92; Silky: 250;Other Sharks and Rays: 43
    The main species reported in observed longline shark catch from Fiji waters are Blue Shark (46%), Oceanic Whitetip (18%), Silky Shark (13%) and Pelagic Stingray Dasyatis violacea (10%). The main species reported in observed purse seine catch are Oceanic Whitetip (30%) and low levels of Silky Shark and hammerhead sharks Sphyrna spp. with the remainder of the shark catch not being identified by species (Lack and Meere, 2009). 
  • Nature of shark fisheries 
    Sharks are taken in offshore fisheries, as bycatch in a substantial domestic longline fleet (97 vessels in 2009) and by US purse vessels operating in Fiji’s waters under the Multilateral Treaty on Fisheries Between Certain Governments of the Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States of America (the US Treaty) (WCPFC, 2010a).
    Gilman et al. (2007) report that sharks taken in Fiji’s pelagic tuna longline fishery are usually finned and the carcasses discarded into the ocean. Sharks are also taken as bycatch in domestic inshore fisheries. Only a few species are retained in the inshore fisheries (Juncker, 2006).
  • Shark Trade

    Data reported to FAO 

    Fiji reports shark exports to FAO in two, non-species-specific categories: Sharks not elsewhere included (nei), fresh or chilled; and Sharks, nei, frozen. Small quantities of frozen shark products are also imported. These data show that shark exports averaged 164 t over the 2000-2008 period. Fiji reports production of unsalted fins averaging 134 t/year over the same period (FAO Fisheries Department, 2010).

    Shark utilisation 

    Until recently, reef fish was readily available, thus shark was not considered an important food fish (shark is not consumed in many areas of Fiji due to traditional taboos on its use, however, it is readily accepted in the Rotuma and Rabi communities). With the increase in population and greater ease of exporting there have been moves to develop shark fisheries both to supply the local demand for fish and to earn foreign exchange (Juncker, 2006).
  • Domestic management measures 
    No specific shark management measures are known to be in place in Fiji. Gilman et al. (2007) report that shark is not managed as a separate fishery in Fiji and there were no restrictions relating to catch, processing and handling of sharks and shark fins in place.
    Fiji does not currently have an NPOA-Sharks. A Regional Plan of Action for Sharks (PI-RPOA Sharks) (Lack and Meere, 2009) was prepared as guidance for Pacific Island Countries and Territories in 2009 through the Forum Fisheries Association (FFA) and with funding from the FAO.
  • RFMOs and regional bodies 
    Fiji is a member of the WCPFC and Forum Fisheries Association (FFA) Under WCPFC CMM 2010-07 coastal States, such as Fiji, are permitted to apply ‘alternative measures’ within their own waters. To date Fiji’s reporting of shark catch to the WCPFC has been intermittent and the measures applied to its domestic fleet with respect to shark conservation are unknown.
  • Gaps and deficiencies
    Data and information Management

    Absence of any shark specific catch in FAO catch data. Intermittent reporting of shark catch to WCPFC, noting that such reporting is not mandatory. The nature and extent of current shark management measures imposed by Fiji on its domestic longline fleet, including measures that are consistent with CMM 2010-07 is unknown.
There you have it, not good at all.
But it also got nothing to do with what is being spouted by the squeaking Shepherdette and member of the local, to quote a friend, PHDs (=Pacific Harbour Derelicts) based on the insights garnered from having chit-chatted with some disgruntled dudes at the local expat drinking hole - and yes I'll certainly leave it at that and definitely not post any links to her assorted moronic musings, the more as insiders know who and what I'm talking about!

The above info is from this report by the WWF and TRAFFIC.
As the disclaimer in the ingress warns, it is only a desktop analysis that relays on publicly available information, some of which dates back quite a few years. Specifically, the report appears to be severely understating the scope of the inshore fishery where there are already signs of local depletion and where some locals are targeting the very Sharks the dive industry depends upon - this so far in total impunity.
Sharks are not a designated fishery and thus, they should not be targeted - but doing so is not strictly illegal, either, and the trade has been highly adept in exploiting that loophole, and that of the fictitious claimed bycatch, and the lack of management that goes with it. With the Sanctuary being officially toast, it is our hope that the upcoming legislation will allow for better management and above all, for adequate enforcement and prosecution.

But as always, we shall see shall we not.
In the meantime, let's refrain from the usual frothy activism and unhelpful statements and instead focus on assisting where opportune and only if specifically invited to do so - and this quietly (!) and with the required respect!

You can download the full report here.

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