Jan 9, 2019

Today in lessons-we-should-have-learned-long-ago-but-we-are-still-doing-anyway: sharks are friends, not food.

With the dwindling number of species and appearances of sharks in our waters, it’s alarming to see that the market for their meat is flourishing. On Monday, Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, a non-profit organization pushing for the conservation of marine biodiversity posted a photo of a gray reef shark among other species being sold at the Arranque Market, Santa Cruz in Manila.

The sight of sharks lying dead cold on the counter at the wet market is disturbing enough. But what’s more, a closer look at its body reveals that its fins have been cut off prior to being displayed.

Shark fins are highly prized among fisherfolk as they fetch higher monetary value and are used to make a popular Chinese dish called shark fin soup. After removing the fins the body is discarded back into the ocean or in cases like this sold for a lower price at wet markets.

The practice of shark finning is banned in some countries but demand for the fins remain steady making it a lucrative business for some.

Republic Act 8550 known as The Philippine Fisheries Code, amended by RA 10654 in 2014, states that “it shall be unlawful to fish or take, catch, gather, sell, purchase, possess, transport, export, forward or ship out aquatic species listed in Appendix I of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), or those categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) as threatened and determined by the Department as such.”

A fine of up to P500 million and imprisonment of 12 to 20 years face those who skirt the law.

However, only a few of endemic species of sharks are protected as listed in the CITES appendix. According to an online petition created by the Save Sharks Network Philippines, a coalition of like-minded organizations, to amend this law, only 21 species out of approximately 200 endemic ones are protected.

Last year, the Philippine Shark Conservation Bill was introduced in the Senate and the Congress. Both passed the first reading and are currently on the committee level.


Featured photo courtesy of Emerson Sy of Philippine Center for Terrestrial and Aquatic Research

Read more:

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We just can’t leave starfish and other marine creatures alone, can we?

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TAGS: Save Shark Networks Philippines Shark shark fin