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Think Before You Eat That Shark and Bake
Recently, a fishing vessel was stopped in the protected waters of the Galapagos National Park, Ecuador, with 379 dead sharks on board, all illegally fished using longlines. This event was described as a marine massacre by many news sites but unfortunately this happens far too often. More than 72 million sharks are killed each year and as a result most shark species are being decimated worldwide. Despite sharks being around for 450 million years, it is projected that many shark species will be extinct by 2050 because of human activities. Sharks are apex predators and hence play a crucial role in keeping the entire marine ecosystem in balance. According to the authors of a new article in Science magazine, “the loss of these animals (top apex predators) may be humankind’s most pervasive influence on nature.”
Heavy over-fishing coupled with a very slow reproductive rate casts a very dreary future for these animals. By catching these animals at a young age, we are preventing them from breeding and carrying on their species. Shark fishing is still legal in the majority of our oceans. However, many countries, like the Bahamas, the Maldives, Palau and Honduras, are recognising the huge biological and economic value of keeping sharks alive and so are banning all shark fishing in their waters and prohibiting the sale, import and export of shark products. So how does this affect you? Gone are the days when a Trini fisherman catches sharks off the North Coast, to then sell to shark and bake vendors at the beach. There is just too much demand and not enough supply. Usually the sharks supplied locally are comprised of juveniles that are sexually immature.
Most of the shark you eat in your bake is actually imported frozen. Where do you think this defrosted and fried shark you end up getting served is coming from? Possibly from large fishing ships like the one found in the Galapagos National Park. These ships legally and illegally catch sharks mainly for shark fin soup, usually cutting off the sharks fins while the shark is alive (finning) and then selling the meat to big seafood wholesale companies that freeze it and package it to be sold. From here, it ends up making its way into our shark and bakes. With the global fishing crisis upon us, we need to start asking questions about where our sea-food comes from and how it is harvested, especially when it comes to larger animals like sharks.
We are the consumers and the less demand for products like shark, the better. Spread the word to friends and family so that informed decisions can be made. If everyone takes a stand, it makes a difference, no matter how small. We have to become the change we want to see. Issues like this affect us, even in little Trinidad. We want sharks to be around for future generations and we want our oceans to be healthy. So the next time you are at Maracas, have a bake and kingfish. I promise that you won’t even taste the difference once you put your pepper, garlic, tamarind, chadon beni and kuchela.
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