Sun, Apr 23, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Groups say marine conservation laws are outdated

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer, with CNA

A giant oceanic manta ray that swam into an aquatic farm off the coast of Hualien County’s Cisingtan on Feb. 16 is pictured on Tuesday last week.

Photo: Chang Tsun-wei, Taipei Times

The nation’s marine conservation laws have not kept with the times and might prove insufficient to stop the alleged sale of a giant oceanic manta ray protected by international law to an overseas museum, the Kuroshio Ocean Educational Foundation and the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

An adult manta ray swam into an aquatic farm off the coast of Hualien County’s Cisingtan (七星潭) on Feb. 16, the statement said.

While the two groups commended fishermen for reporting the manta ray’s presence to the Fisheries Agency, the nation’s marine conservation laws have failed to keep up with their international counterparts, creating a loophole that might allow the manta ray to be sold to the museum, it said.

While the manta ray is considered “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Taiwan has made no effort to put the animal under protection, it added.

The implementation of the Regulations on the Capturing of the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray (鬼蝠魟漁獲管制措施) in July last year was a first step toward conservation of the animal, but it only stipulates that fishermen should report the capture of a manta ray within one day — to allow the agency to appoint researchers to conduct sampling of biological data — or face a fine of between NT$30,000 and NT$150,000, the statement said.

After fishermen have made a report, they are free to arrange a sale or use the remains for other purposes, the group said, adding that 13 manta rays were captured in July.

In January, fishermen in Kaohsiung were fined for not notifying the agency after the capture of two manta rays, which were slaughtered on the spot and sold, the groups said, adding that a manta ray in Tainan was also slaughtered and sold after the agency said it did not fulfill “further scientific need.”

The groups called on the Council of Agriculture to decline to show official documents for the export of manta rays, a requirement stipulated in Appendix II of CITES, saying the council should also officially ban the capture of manta rays, megamouth sharks, great white sharks and basking sharks.

The council should also convene meetings on the study and conservation of large marine animals as soon as possible, they added.

The meetings should identify hot spots where such animals are often spotted and their migratory routes, as well as provide methods to monitor and assess the biodiversity of such species and assess ecotourism potential, they said, adding that such information could be used to research stricter management policies for the fisheries industry and would prevent the meetings from becoming formalities.

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