The government should ban shark-finning to not only conserve sharks but also avoid creating a negative image of the country to the rest of the world, local and foreign conservationists said yesterday.
At a press conference yesterday in Taipei, a six-minute videotape about what shark-finning entails was shown to the public. In the documentary, the remainder of an injured shark, whose fins had been removed on board, was discarded at sea.
Conservationists from Life Conservation Association and WildAid, an international conservation group, said these ghastly images are just part of the extreme brutality sharks are subjected to.
The videotape has been played in the UK, the US and Singapore. It will be played in more countries where WildAid campaigns against shark-finning.
According to conservationists, while the Taiwanese public tries to play its part in shark conservation, Taiwan remains the largest fin-trader in the world.
"Before the government takes any action, consumers should refuse shark-fin soup," Buddhist Master Shih Chao-hui (釋昭慧) of Life Conservation Association said.
Shih said that people should consider the inhumanity behind the consumption of shark-fin soup.
Every year millions of sharks are killed to meet the ever growing demand for shark-fin soup.
Conservationists from WildAid said Taiwanese shark-fishing companies take advantage of the poverty of developing countries, which often cannot afford to enforce their own laws against shark-finning.
In a recently completed report entitled "Shark Finning: Unrecorded Wastage on a Global Scale," Taiwanese ships are blamed for depleting the resources of other countries in their race to meet demand for shark fins.
The report highlighted two recent cases in Costa Rica. One case was exposed in July, when a video was shot showing about 30 bags of shark fins found at a private dock where Taiwanese fishing vessels often land their hauls of shark fins.
It later transpired that the official cargo declaration from the Taiwanese vessel, Ho Tsai Fa No. 18, was for 60,000kg of shark fins.
The other case involved the seizure of 30 tonnes of fins belonging to the Goidau Roey No.1, which was flying a Panamanian flag, on May 31.
"We urge the Council of Agriculture to enact legislation to prevent Taiwanese fishing companies overseas from finning sharks, even if this means putting a governmental observer on every vessel," said Susie Watts, a WildAid consultant who wrote the report.
Wu Hsinn-charng (
"The available evidence accusing Ho Tsai Fa No. 18 is relatively weak because the fin and the remainder are often managed separately," Wu said.
Wu said the second case was irrelevant to Taiwan because the vessel was registered overseas.
Wu said Costa Rica did not officially ban shark finning until last month.
There are more than 380 species of sharks. Wu said Taiwanese fishermen catch certain species, such as silky sharks and blue sharks, to ensure resources are sustainable.
Endangered species, which grow slowly and have late sexual maturity, have been protected by Taiwan since July last year, when a limit of 80 was set on the number of whale sharks that could be caught every year.