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END OF SHARK FINNING IN CHILE: Senate passed legislation about shark finning

30 Marzo 2011 3 Ccomentarios
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FIN DEL ALETEO EN CHILE: Senado aprobó legislar el aleteo de tiburones [Versión en Español]

Aletas de tiburones desembarcadas en Chile

Shark fins landed in Chile

Unanimously, the Senate approved to legislate the bill introduced in January 2011, the first step to become a Nation Law, which aims to promote the rational use and protect the sharks’ biodiversity that inhabit Chilean waters. The bill, introduced by five senators (Horvath, Cantero, Gómez, Sabag and Orpis) applies to all vessels to conduct fishing activities directed or incidental to some species of shark in the waters of the Republic of Chile.

Now it is the bill will be referred to the Fisheries Committee for discussion. This committee has invited Dr. Julio Lamilla professor at the Universidad Austral de Chile and international NGOs with finning regulation experience in, as Pew Environment Group and OCEANA.

During the debate the Senator Horvath, chairman of the Fisheries Committee, intervened on the scope of legal text. In this regard, said that these marine species “grow very slowly and reach sexual maturity at a late age and unfortunately, these bad fishing practices causes irreversible damage to associated ecosystems “. He added that “cut their fins and then returned to the sea, not only harms the ecosystem but is also a cruel act, equivalent to removing people’s arms“.  Senator Horvath stated that “the disappearance of sharks can destabilize the system and cause many negative ecological impacts on the ecosystems communities’ structure and function. In fact, of shark populations decline are now altering ecosystems around the world”.

Mako shark in the artisanal fishery of Chile

Mako shark in the artisanal fishery of Chile

Professor Lamilla, scientific advisor Shark Conservation Program (Programa de Conservación de Tiburones, in Spanish), said that “sharks belong to a class of fish species, called Chondrichthyes were also includes skates, rays, and chimaeras. Some of these species have a target (directed) fishery in Chile such as mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus). In this fishery, for every two mako sharks are caught blue shark (Prionace glauca), but the lack of a market for blue shark meat, their fins are cut and discarding the at sea.”So far there was no legal impediment to prevent this practice, but we believe that together with governing rules new scenarios that promote the innovation in finning and bycatch reduction without hurting fishermen “says Dr. Lamilla.

According to the National Marine Fisheries Service (fisheries statistics government agency responsible) during the past 12 years have been landed 7,245 tonnes of mako and blue shark, with an annual average of 600 tonnes. Of all these sharks caught, only 30% were blue sharks (about 1,800 sharks) where their fins are landed, dried and exported to Asian markets. According to the database of foreign trade statistics of the National Customs Service of Chile, during the same period (1998 to 2009) have been exported over 200 tons of dried shark fins, almost 22 tonnes of fin year.

Pelagic sharks (mako and blue) total landing by fishery and dry shark fins exported between 1998 and 2009.

Pelagic sharks (mako and blue) total landing by fishery and dry shark fins exported between 1998 and 2009.

A set of fins that is both dorsal fins, pectoral fins and tail, equivalent to 4% by weight of one shark. If you dry them, this percentage drops to about 2%, so from where comes the other shark fins exported from Chile?

It is noted that the artisanal fishery for mako shark is responsible of all shark finning in Chile but one of the big players in the fins business are large industrial fisheries who target albacore Xiphias gladius that operates in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and international waters (beyond 200 nm). In these fisheries, they use large nets or longlines that can measure up to 5 km long. Although the objective of these fisheries are other fish also catch sharks (mako and blue shark mainly). Sometimes this capture may be accidental, but sometimes, there is a direct intention to capture sharks (incorporating wires in the hook- longline construction). The catch of sharks, which in some cases can be 1 to 1 with the albacore, has in most cases the same final. Unable to mixed shark meat with albacore due to the high urea content, shark fins are landed in bags to go directly to “dryers” (private homes where fins are sun dried) and then be exported to Korea.


Mako shark in the industrial fishery of Chile

Mako and blue sharks are declining dramatically as can be observed if we analyse landing  trends. Although, this may reflect a change in fishing pressure (less fishermen, less sharks landed), but current landings levels remains unsustainable. About 80% of sharks landed, those that are not finned, are immature specimens who have not reached sexual maturity. Unable to leave offspring there’s a gap in the sharks population, and if  intense fishing pressure continues the fishery may cause a high impact in the ecosystem even to local extinction.

Shark landings in Chile

Shark landings in Chile

For this reason if enacted a law to regulate shark finning in Chile, fishermen cold be discouraged to do not commercially catch sharks. This must promote responsible and sustainable use, decrease bycatch and and if a shark s captured, promote the release without affecting the animal’s life.

There is still a long way to go,  although it has won a great battle, achieving more than anecdotal interest for this animals. Although greater deep research is needed that support this kind of decisions, the actual tools should also provide diversification for those fishermen who lives historically from sharks as the only way of life.

[review the photo gallery]

Carlos Bustamante
Programa de Conservacion de Tiburones -Chile-
1 de abril de 2011

3 Comentarios »

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