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T&T a major player in shark-fin trade

Sunday, April 6, 2014
“If Papa Bois Conservation and T&T could be successful in seriously committing to full and strong protection for sharks in the near future, it could deliver a crippling blow to the global shark fin trade.” —marine ecologist Rick MacPherson

T&T can be the tipping point to deliver a crippling blow to the global shark fin industry. This view was expressed by marine ecologist Rick MacPherson during an interview at the Sunday Guardian's offices on March 21. He said T&T was a major player in the international shark fin trade, exporting 332,396 kilograms of shark fin in 2011. T&T is ranked the number six country that exports shark fins to Hong Kong—the world's largest shark fin market. MacPherson, a coral reef scientist serving as adviser to PEW Charitable Trusts, said, “If Papa Bois Conservation (PBC) and T&T could be successful in seriously committing to full and strong protection for sharks in the near future, it could deliver a crippling blow to the global shark fin trade. “It may be the final push that is necessary to show Hong Kong and the world that this is an unsustainable enterprise and there's an opportunity here for T&T to be centre-stage in taking bold, decisive action in protecting sharks.”


‘Sharks worth more alive than dead’
 The founder and director of Pelagia Consulting said that economic evaluations showed that sharks were worth more alive than in a sandwich or in shark fin soup. It was estimated that one shark brought in US$1.5 to $1.9 million for tourism over its lifetime. MacPherson evaluated the shark and bake phenomenom at Maracas Bay on March 18, sampling the world-famous Richard's shark and bake and said it was delicious, but the shark itself wasn't that distinctive, if someone had slipped a McDonald's fish fillet in the bake, he wouldn't know the difference and it was the toppings and sauces that stood out. “It could be any variety of fish, even lionfish which tastes just as good. It's not the taste of shark that Trinidadians and tourists are enjoying but deep fried food with very flavourful toppings on a fried piece of bread, who wouldn’t love that?” MacPherson said as a conservationist and scientist it was an exciting proposition that T&T could be the place to make a stand against shark finning and exploitation, and the goal was within reach. 


Trinidad Seafoods Ltd CEO: Demand for shark increases in 2014
David Lanser, chief executive officer at Trinidad Seafoods Ltd (TSL), said the company saw a significant increase in the demand for shark in 2014. He said as a result, TSL had some challenges to maintain consistent supply in alignment with its brand promise. Lanser said, “While we're not scientific experts, our experience is that it is becoming more difficult to acquire supply. “It is our opinion that current fishing habits are not sustainable for shark, but a change in the management of the fisheries will tremendously improve stocks and result in its sustainability.” He said currently lionfish was not available and does not seem an economically viable alternative to shark, but there are other economically/environmentally viable alternatives. 


De Verteuil: Shark sanctuary campaign continues in schools
PBC director Marc de Verteuil said the next phase of the shark sanctuary campaign was the educational outreach to schools where children will be taught about shark conservation. They also intend to conduct a citizens science survey which will help the Fisheries Division in establishing a baseline for sharks. On March 21 MacPherson and De Verteuil met with Environment Minister Ganga Singh, who said he was sympathetic and supportive of the cause. 


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