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Fiji Time: 11:31 AM on Wednesday 17 September

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Shark defenders say there's no sustainable fin source

Tevita Vuibau
Monday, August 12, 2013

THERE are no sustainable sources of shark fins and the transportation of them whether by land or air must stop.

That's the assertion of the Coral Reef Alliance and the Pew Environment Group and it is supported by very convincing evidence.

It comes after national carrier Fiji Airways banned the transport of shark fins from unsustainable and unverified sources earlier this year. However as Coral Reef Alliance Fiji field officer Arthur Sokimi explained, there is no reason to believe there are sustainable sources to begin with.

"Clearly, this has the potential to be a step in the right direction for Fiji as a whole. But at this time, there is no evidence that Fiji shark fisheries are sustainable.

"For more than three years, the Fiji Department of Fisheries has recognised that Fiji's sharks are in danger from overfishing and has been deliberating on the need for comprehensive protections. In fact, rampant shark fining is occurring and is documented by the Fisheries Department and fisheries observers.

SPC Observer Program data shows that between 2002 and 2005, 93-100 per cent of blue sharks, 65-88 per cent of oceanic whitetip sharks, and 68-81 per cent of silky sharks were alive when hauled to vessel. A 2011 Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Council report by SPC using data from 2006-2009 found similar results.

Mr Sokimi said observer information from that report showed the majority of sharks interacting with the Fiji longline industry were finned and had their bodies discarded into the sea.

"Similarly, SPC Observer Program data from 1999-2005 showed that between 78-90 per cent of all sharks were finned," he explained.

"Globally, as revealed in a study published in March 2013 it was found that annual mortality of sharks ranges from 63-273 million per year.

"This exceeds the average rebound rate for many shark populations."

And with the number of longline fishing licences reduced from 71 in 2012 to 50 as of 2014 to ensure the sustainability of tuna stocks, Mr Sokimi said this could unfortunately be an incentive for fishers to actively target lucrative shark species.

"The most effective way to protect shark stocks is to put a temporary moratorium on trade. During this time, this basic scientific information can be collected to determine whether the fishery and the trade is sustainable."