The Shark’s Voice: Shark finning

Shark-finning: Clear and present danger

Environmental groups warn that some shark species could be wiped out in only a few years never to return.

Dubai The stench wafting in the 42 degrees Celsius heat at Deira Fish Market is enough to make a stray cat retch as pools of blood collect beneath a loading island slathered with hundreds of freshly killed Gulf sharks.

As the sun dips below the Deira Corniche horizon, a ritual rarely witnessed by outsiders plays itself out as dozens of pectoral and caudal fins, hacked from black-tipped sharks, are snapped up by buyers hungry for lucrative trade with dried-seafood brokers in Hong Kong.

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the UAE is the fifth largest exporter of shark fins to Hong Kong, where the virtually tasteless marine appendages are a high-end, brothy delicacy in soup served at luxury social gatherings.

The culinary war on global sharks for their fins has decimated shark stocks by up to 90 per cent at inshore reef systems around the globe, say experts, leading to the deaths of more than 70 million sharks every year.

Source: Gulfnews

Shark fin soup linked to Alzheimer’s, ALS, and Parkinson’s

The consumption of shark cartilage supplements and shark fin soup has been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and ALS (Lou Gehrig disease), due to biomagnification of a toxin produced by algae.

In a study conducted at the University of Miami, Florida, researchers discovered high levels of an algae derived neurotoxin in the fins of all seven species of sharks they examined. The toxin, beta-N-methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA), is produced by an alga that is ubiquitous on the earth and in the oceans – the tiny unicellular cyanobacteria, or blue/green algae.

Normally these algae are not a problem, but because they are present everywhere from the ocean floor to the surface the toxin from their cells can build up through the food chain and accumulate in significant amounts in the tissues of the apex predators, such as sharks. BMAA binds with collagen proteins in the shark fin cartilage.

Since some sharks have wide ranges or migrate, it is unpredictable which sharks will contain potent levels of the toxin, and the researchers found high amounts of BMAA in sharks where there had not been recent cyanobacteria blooms. They conclude:

Since BMAA has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases, these results may have important relevance to human health. We suggest that consumption of shark fins may increase the risk for human exposure to the cyanobacterial neurotoxin BMAA.

It is also possible that consumption of shark fins could lead to Parkinson’s disease.

According to another study high levels of this toxin are correlated with Parkinsonian-dementia complex as well as Alzheimer’s and ALS. The Chamorro people of Guam consider flying foxes (which are fruit bats) to be a delicacy, and BMAA is concentrated in the tissues of these bats through a form of cyanobacteria that is associated with seeds in that area. They write:

Although BMAA as a putative cause of ALS/PDC was initially disputed, this hypothesis has recently regained attention when it was discovered that BMAA is biomagnified within the Guam ecosystem and is found in the brain tissues of Chamorros who died of ALS/PDC, but not in patients who died of causes unrelated to neurodegenerative disease.

Once the toxin has been ingested it can bind with proteins in the body where it accumulates and is later broken down, explaining why these neurological diseases often appear years after consumption.

The consequences of cyanobacterial toxins on human health, water-based industries, recreation, and wildlife are of increasing concern as eutrophication and rising global temperatures trigger increases in the geographical extent, population densities, and duration of cyanobacterial blooms in fresh, brackish, and marine waters. Human poisonings from cyanobacterial blooms can be serious; 150 persons who drank cyanobacteria-contaminated water in Australia were hospitalized, and >50 kidney dialysis patients at a Brazilian clinic who were exposed to microcystins died.

The algae itself is essential and the toxin appears to be the result of how the algae accomplishes its own life processes – processes which have allowed this prolific algae to oxygenate Earth’s atmosphere and eventually create conditions that support human life.

Source:Digital Journal

Shark landings at Vigo port. (Photo: Puerto de Vigo)

Shark finning ban to result in significant loss, warns Spanish organization

The Spanish Fisheries Confederation (Cepesca) warns that the ban on shark finning on board of vessels proposed by the European Commission (EC) will mean the loss of more than EUR 9 million a year to the Spanish and Portuguese fleets.

In a report presented at the European Parliament (EP), Cepesca notes that the implementation of the Brussels’ initiative, which requires processing the caught specimen with the fins partially attached to the body, will have an economic and social impact and will cause “average losses of EUR 22,000 a year per ship.”

That would mean “the disappearance of most of the 186 community longline vessels catching sharks and the unemployment of about 2,700 crew members,” stressed the Confederation.

According to Javier Garat, Cepesca Secretary General, the sector finds it difficult to understand the EC proposal, “as the Community acknowledges having no evidence that the EU fleet incurs in finning practices by implementing the current system.”

“In fact, it seems to be a disproportionate, unfair measure, which is based on a false debate artificially generated by environmental groups seeking to mess up fishing,” said Garat.

“The European fishing industry shares the ultimate objectives of the Commission to eliminate finning around the world and improve shark fisheries management,” he added.

To accomplish this, Cepesca proposes either:

  • The requirement to unload the bodies and the fins on the same port;
  • The removal of special permissions for fresh fish fleets;
  • The authorisation of special permits provided for freezer vessels as long as they use a traceability mechanism to ensure the correlation between the landed bodies and fins;
  • The implementation of a Statistical Document programme in all the Regional Fisheries Organizations (RFOs) for shark fin trade.

The Spanish organization clarifies that ship owners are willing to cover the cost of the inspections of independent rating agencies in landing port terminals to certify that no bodies are wasted and that the fins and bodies that are landed match.

“If the Commission’s proposal is developed, not only would better shark fishery management be achieved, but it would concentrate the activity of this fleet in areas that are nearer the coast, as the activity is no longer profitable outside European ports,” the Spanish leader warned.

There the goods “would lose their Community status, adversely impacting the resource communities in more concentrated areas.”

Garat recalled that the Community longline fleet annually lands about 57,000 tonnes and does not incur in finning, so it just catches 7 per cent of all sharks caught in the world.

Source: Fis Ecuador

Protection of Sharks by Costa Rica, Colombia and Honduras Continues

The governments of Costa Rica and Colombia met earlier this week in Bogota to ratify their commitment to protect marine resources, particularly with regard to their collaboration in the battle against shark finning, according to an official communication by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Central American nation of Honduras also ratified her commitment to shark protection by celebrating the first anniversary of the “Shark Sanctuary” declaration that prohibits catching sharks in territorial waters.

Carlos Vargas, director of judicial affairs for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, represented Costa Rica at the meeting in Bogota. This is the third official meeting on the matter, and the focus this time was on the five protocols that Costa Rica and Colombia intend to create and implement to prevent shark poaching and the removal of their fins by irresponsible fishing crews. These five protocols cover matters of prevention, vigilance, legal complaints, maritime cooperation, and administrative regulation of the fishing industry.

Also earlier this week, the President of Honduras Porfirio Lobo Sosa held a ceremony in a naval installation in which 114 shark fins confiscated by security forces from poachers were burned. The ceremony marked one year since Honduras took drastic steps to protect her 300 shark species by banning their catch. President Lobo remarked:

“It is important to speak up in order to protect sharks. I hope that many other nations become conscious and prohibit shark fishing. […] I am committed to keep on fighting to protect the species; what we have today is borrowed and we need to leave it to our future generations.”

Honduras is one of the few countries in the world to have enacted a national shark sanctuary. In early May, thePew Environment Group lauded the joint initiative by Costa Rica and Honduras to protect the different hammerhead shark species, which according to that policy-research organization are estimated to be victims of poaching in 4 percent of the overall illegal shark finning trade.

Prosecutors and Fishermen in Costa Rica  Look Out for Devious Shark Fin Poachers

In Puntarenas, the Pacific Union of Fishermen and local prosecutors are seeing new attempts by poachers to circumvent Article 139 of the Ley de Pesca (Fishing Law, PDF) in Costa Rica, which specifically prohibits shark finning.

The Costa Rica Star has previously reported on the case of the fishing vessel Hung Chi Fu, registered in Belize. In 2011, the FV Hung Chi Fu was busy offloading a catch of Hexanchus griesus, blunt-nosed grey sharks (also called cow sharks), which are abundant in the Pacific coast off Costa Rica. The H. griesus catch of the was within the legal limit, but it was used to conceal a sizable catch of blue sharks with their fins hacked off. After a ship arrest and subsequent trial, the Taiwanese captain was ordered to pay about $124,000 in fines.

A more intricate shark finning scheme was uncovered by fishermen in the Pacific coast of Costa Rica also in 2011. The case involves a woman named Kathy Tseng Chang, who is the business agent for three fishing vessels registered in Belize. Fishermen in Puntarenas noticed something suspicious on one of those boats, the Wang Jia Men 89. The selachian catch of that vessel was highly unusual: it consisted of dorsal fins attached by a wire to portions of shark remains.

Forensic biologists and crime investigators set out to investigate the strange shark fin poaching method of the FV Wang Jia Men 89; they determined that the crew was attempting to circumvent Article 139 of the Fishing Law, which states that all sharks caught and brought to shore must have their fins attached to a certain percentage of the body. Some gutting of the shark is allowed to take place at sea, but the traditional poaching practice of hauling a shark onto the deck of the boat, hacking off its fins and throwing it back to the ocean is considered grounds for criminal prosecution.

The above-described traditional shark finning method is what Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founderPaul Watson claims he observed back in 2002 on the deck of the FV Varadero, a vessel flying the flag of Costa Rica. Mr. Watson is currently in Germany awaiting the outcome of an extradition proceeding that could bring him to Costa Rica to answer criminal charges based on a complaint by the crew of the FV Varadero, who claim that Mr. Watson endangered their vessel.

Prosecutors in Costa Rica believe that the fishing crew of the Wang Jia Men 89 cut off numerous shark fins out at sea and kept a few sharks on board to put together a mess of body parts and fins attached by wire. The idea was to make more room on the boat for catch, and to claim that the fins were attached to a significant part of the shark as provided by the law; alas, prosecutors filed charges against Kathy Tseng Chang, who back in February was also under investigation for alleged human trafficking.

Environmentalists and legislators have called for amendments to the Fishing Law for the purpose of eliminating ambiguity; in essence, to state that caught sharks must be intact when they reach the shore.

Source: Costa Rica Star

Editorial: SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras


~ by FSVSF Admin on 4 June, 2012.

One Response to “The Shark’s Voice: Shark finning”

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