Ban The Export Of Shark Fins From India
SUCCESS! On 6 February, 2015, India's Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued a notification prohibiting the export of shark fins of all species of sharks!
India is the second largest shark fishing nation in the world! This slaughter, driven by foreign demands for shark fins and not national consumption, is decimating our shark populations. Join us in asking for a ban on the export of shark fins from India! Sharks are vanishing across the world. These ancient fish suffer an undeserved reputation for brutality and bloodlust, but the truth is that these apex predators that pose an insignificant threat to humans, are themselves gravely threatened by us. Globally, an estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year, primarily to feed the $360 billion ‘shark fin’ industry. This cold-blooded business caters to the culinary tastes of the Far East, where shark fins are the key ingredient in an ‘elite delicacy’ known as ‘shark fin soup’.
Shockingly, India is the second largest shark fishing nation in the world but does not feature on the list of top exporters, despite a negligible local market. The disparity between the scale of fishing, national consumption and the scale of international export is vast, and conservationists and researchers say that this implies large scale illegal export.
Photo: Björn Schütrumpf
In 2013, the Ministry of Environment and Forests instated a ban against ‘shark finning’, wherein sharks are caught at sea, hauled into fishing vessels, have their fins sliced off and are then dumped back into the water to die a slow and painful death. The ban supports a ‘fins naturally attached’ policy that required fisheries to land sharks with their fins intact. Predictably, the judgement, despite its intent, has had little impact on the unconscionable number of sharks killed, or the illegal export of their fins.
This slaughter has taken a catastrophic toll on shark numbers and consequently on the ecology of marine ecosystems. About 67 shark species are listed by the IUCN as endangered or critically endangered, with some seeing a 98 per cent decline in population in the last 15 years. Indian waters alone host an estimated 66 species of sharks of which just nine species are listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act. Yet, not one case has been filed for shark killing because it is next to impossible for anyone, but an expert, to identify the species of a shark from just its fin.
In India, the slaughter of sharks is driven by foreign demand, not national consumption. If we are to save our sharks, it is essential that we ban the export of shark fins from our country! This ban will still allow artisanal fisherman to continue to fish sharks for local consumption and sale but will halt the unsustainable fishing that is carried out by commercial trawlers that supply shark products to the bottomless markets of foreign nations. Sharks are a late-maturing, slow-breeding family, and instating this ban will positively reduce shark fishing and help beleaguered populations. The proposed ban would deter exporters from surreptitiously slipping shark fins into their export consignments for fear of confiscation of entire consignments, and prosecution that could result in jail terms.
Sharks are the tigers of the ocean. They need YOUR help and they need it now, before they’re finished for their fins.
Sanctuary readers have a much better understanding of the importance of healthy marine ecosystems and the need to protect natural India. We therefore urge you to send a letter or email to the Minister of Commerce and Industry explaining why you support a ban on the export of shark fins.
Address it to:
Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman,
Honorable Commerce and Industry Minister,
Government of India,
Department of Commerce,
Udyog Bhawan, New Delhi 110 107.
Make the following points:
a) India is the second largest shark fishing nation in the world but does not feature on the list of top exporters despite a negligible local market. This implies a booming illegal trade in shark products. Shark fishing is thus driven by foreign consumer demand.
b) Sharks are critical to the health of marine ecosystems. Yet, today an estimated 67 species of sharks are listed as endangered or critically endangered by the IUCN. This mass slaughter will wipe out shark populations, unless it is curbed.
c) Instating a ban on the export of shark fins will allow shark populations to recover while still allowing artisanal fisherman to catch legal species for local consumption and sale.
View Sanctuary's letter to the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry here.
Do not be a consumer of shark fin soup. If you visit a restaurant that has shark fin soup on the menu, ask to speak to the manager and request them to take the item off their menu.
First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXIV No. 6, December 2014.