Wednesday, July 19, 2006

No, thank you!

I will discourage mom from buying sharks fin for soup if she plans to do so in the near future.

At Chinese wedding dinners, if sharks fin soup is served, I will leave my share untouched.

As of today, I am no longer eating sharks fin.

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I have never really bothered much about sharks being an endangered species. Or the fact that poaching sharks, cutting off their fin and then throwing them back to sea and leaving them to die is inhuman.

Till I saw an entire episode of Edisi Siasat recently, which featured shark poaching right here in Malaysia.

This Chinese couple in Kuantan have their fishery business operation around catching sharks. They provide the necessary equipment and hooks to a bunch of Malay men who go out to the open seas to catch sharks. When they come back with their catch, they will have to only sell it back to this Chinese couple because the instruments were provided for.

For 1000kgs of shark brought back to land, the group of fishermen were paid about RM3000-RM4000.

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Apparently, Malaysian law states that fishermen are allowed to catch sharks, but shark catch for each fishing vessel must not exeed 10% of their total catch of other fishes as well. If found to exceed this 10%, the fine is about RM500 (so claimed by the Chinese lady boss), which is the price of one piece of shark fin (each fin cut into 2 pieces).

When the fishermen come back to shore, right on the jetty, the sharks are immediately butchered into large chunks for storage and transport. Black sharks are of a lower grade, therefore their flesh will be processed into salted fish. White sharks are usually sold, and even exported to Singapore where a higher price can be fetched. The fins are of course immediately cut off to be sold separately.

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The Chinese woman was even quoted saying that the authorities don't pose as a problem because we hire Malays to do the actual catching. Malaysian laws don't fine the buyers, merely the fishermen. What the hell? I know I flunked Economics back in college, but I know that where there is demand, there will be supply.

Anyways, when these fishermen catch their sharks, size is not a factor because really, anything goes. Small. Big. Adult. Baby. All are taken from their natural habitat. Sharks take an awfully long time to mature, 12-15 years! And gestation period can be as long as 22 months! A depleted shark population will then require decades to replace itself.

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So I was wondering if there were any projects or groups dedicated to protecting sharks in particular, and came across the Malaysia National Plan of Action (NPOA) for the Conservation & Management of Sharks. This was set up with guidelines adopted from the International Plan of Action (IPOA) of Conservation & Management of Sharks. The NPOA is of course supported by the Department of Fisheries Malaysia.

The document was close to 60 pages long. Somehow, these guys seem to think that our local fishermen are not out to catch sharks. I skimmed through the document as most parts were quite high-brow, presenting statistical facts and info on species etc. I came to the concluding pages and found this -

"Sharks are not targetted by fishers but are caught together with other commercially important species. They are brought back as a whole to the port and sold at a reasonable price with the fins fetching a better price"

They obviously don't know about that particular Chinese couple in Kuantan then. Also quoted in the text, "it is unlikely that the pressures on shark catches by Malaysian fishing vessels will increase in the future".

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Yeah, if one boat can bring back 1000kgs in a day, increase or not, there will come a time when there will be no more sharks : (

No more sharks fin soup for Doreen.

This is me doing my bit for eco-conservation. Say TAK NAK!

Posted by Doreen at 11:41 am