More species of shark need to be protected: groups

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Nov 22, 2012 - Page 1

After three great white sharks were caught in waters off Taitung this month and sold for their meat, environmental protection and animal welfare groups yesterday called on the Fisheries Agency to prohibit fishing of the great white shark, basking shark and megamouth shark.

Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) director Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏) said there have been four reported cases of great white sharks being caught off the east coast in the past two months and one case of a megamouth shark.

Chen said one of the catches was a pregnant great white shark, later sold for NT$185,000 at a fish market.

Like the whale shark, the great white shark and basking shark are also listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Chen said.

She said that while the Fisheries Bureau banned the fishing, vending, possessing, importing and exporting of whale sharks in 2007 and also provides a NT$30,000 reward for fishermen who report catching whale sharks, no such mechanism is in place to protect other rare shark species.

Kaia Lin (林愛龍) of Oceanus Honors Gaia, Taiwan said that many of the sharks caught were found stuck in set nets offshore, but these accidents could be avoided by using shark prevention nets or magnetic shark repellents.

A representative of the Society of Wilderness said a shark meat investigation the society conducted last year showed that a total of 22 different species of shark were being served as food in Taiwan’s fish markets, but Fisheries Agency data recorded only five species.

Kuroshio Ocean Education Foundation executive director Chang Tai-di (張泰迪) said many people are afraid of the great white shark because of the famous Jaws movie franchise, but actually human beings are not part of the great white sharks’ diet and only very few accidents happen when people on surfboards are mistaken for seals or other marine animals.

National Chiao Tung University’s Shannon Hu (胡怡敏) said that the case of the pregnant great white shark caught off Taiwan had already gained the attention of environmental and civic groups in other countries via the Internet. The groups said they would write letters to urge the Taiwanese government to better protect sharks.

Populations of sharks — which are at the top of the oceanic food chain and have long gestation periods — are easily affected by overfishing and a reduced population affects overall ocean ecology, the groups said, urging the government to take measures to better protect sharks.

In response to the civic groups, Fisheries Agency senior specialist Chou Ching-ho (周清和) said that in accordance with CITES, the agency does not allow the export of meat from great white sharks, but due to insufficient data on the population of the three species of sharks off Taiwan, the agency would have to gather more information before deciding whether to implement measures such as those implemented for whale sharks.