Worried that the Fisheries Agency may relax restrictions on commercial imports of whale sharks, a species considered “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Life Conservationist Association (LCA) yesterday protested the agency’s release of a draft set of regulations on importing the animals.
“The Fisheries Agency’s move is quite suspicious, since no research institutions — including the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium — have expressed the need to import whale sharks for academic purposes. We do not understand why the agency needs to devise such regulations now,” Ho Tsung-hsun (何宗勳), executive director of the association’s Supervisory Committee for Animal Protection, said in a telephone interview. “We suspect that the move is to facilitate commercial imports of whale sharks under the guise of academic or scientific research.”
Ho said as soon as the agency posted the draft regulations on its Web site earlier this month, several animal rights activists, including himself, asked to meet Ministry of Education and museum officials.
“During a meeting on Wednesday, Deputy Minister of Education Huang Pi-tuan (黃碧端) and museum Director-General Wang Wei-hsien (王維賢) both said they have not heard that any academic or scientific institutions have any plans to import whale sharks,” Ho said. “Huang went as far as saying that the ministry has no plan to change former minister of education Wu Ching-ji’s (吳清基) decision to ban imports of whale sharks.”
If no researchers plan to import the species, “we would like to ask the Fisheries Agency why it had to go through all the trouble of drafting a set of regulations on importing whale sharks,” Ho said.