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Shark finning ban alone won’t save sharks

Monday, August 11, 2014

T&T’s Cabinet has approved the recommendation of the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources to ban shark finning. Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj announced this after last week’s Cabinet meeting. Shark-finning is the cruel and wasteful practice of cutting off a shark’s fin while it is still alive, and throwing away the carcass. 

It is blamed for up to 100 million shark deaths each year, but banning finning locally will not make a big impact on shark conservation. Only a ban on the trade, importation, exportation and landing of shark fin and a shark sanctuary will be effective. 

T&T is the number-six exporter of shark fin to Hong Kong, the world’s largest shark fin market. The fins for this export originate mostly from the Atlantic. They are caught by foreign owned, foreign flagged longliners outside of T&T’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). T&T provides a free zone base for these vessels use to land and re-export their destructive catch. 

While banning shark finning locally shows good intention on part of the government to protect sharks, the ban must be extended to cover cross-border trade. This is a historic opportunity for our small island state to have a game changing impact on global shark conservation. We can be leaders of global conservation. Sharks are apex predators. Many shark species also function as keystone species in the ocean ecosystem.