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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hammerhead sharks sold out again

PROPOSALS to protect the heavily fished hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks were narrowly rejected today because of concerns among Asian nations over the trade in shark fins.

Japan, China and Indonesia were among those nations which successfully campaigned against the proposalsat the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

They argued that trade restrictions over the shark fin industry were not the answer, would damage coastal nations and would be difficult to apply.

Oh that's okay then.

Too difficult to police? Let's forget it then!

Don't want to damage coastal nations? That's fine then, let's not worry about about damaging majestic species and forever altering fragile eco-systems.

The meeting did agree to offer greater protection to Porbeagle sharks. But conservationists claimed the other species of shark have been "sold out" by countries who voted not to protect them against commercial fisheries.

Sharks are being finned in greater numbers to supply the shark fin soup market which has long played central part in traditional Chinese culture. Demand for the soup has surged as increasing numbers of Chinese middle class family become wealthier.

Masanori Miyahara, chief counselor of the Fisheries Agency of Japan, told delegates: "This is not about trade issues but fisheries enforcement. Poaching is a big problem. Small scale long liners are chasing sharks all over the world."

But a "disappointed and frustrated" Jupp Baron Kerckerinck zur Borg, president of the Shark Research Institute based in Millbrook, N.Y., called it right.

He said: "Japan has been voting the shark proposals down because they are catching them, Singapore voted them down because they make money selling the fins and China makes money because they eat them.

"How can we win?"

Supporters of the restrictions argued that the unregulated trade had seen the populations of the endangered scalloped hammerhead, great hammerhead and the threatened smooth hammerhead to plummet by as much as 85 percent.

Oceanic whitetip sharks face similar threats and their numbers are down 60 to 70 percent

If politicians on the tiny Pacific nation of Palau, which last year created the first ever shark sanctuary, can see the danger of over-fishing it's about time some of these more developed nations - JAPAN - saw the light as well.

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