Every day during the months of September and October at the old ferry terminal for the wooden boat that runs from Sampalan (Nusa Penida) to Kusamba (Bali) there are dozens of sharks, +90% of them pelagic thresher sharks, ready to be transported to Bali and from there into the international trade. According to local fisherman and ferry workers the average amount of sharks a day is 70, but the record day of this season has been 125. After two months when the season is over they could have killed up to 4.500 pelagic thresher sharks. This represents however only the sharks landed on Nusa Penida. The area is also fished by boats that sell their catch directly in Bali and perhaps also in Lombok. The total catch may be much larger and could involve bigger ships unloading their catch directly to Benoa (Bali biggest port) .
90% of the sharks are female pelagic thresher sharks, and most of them pregnant with at least two pups (normally one male and one female).
Early morning on the beaches of Nusa Penida the sharks are gutted and their massive tail fin is cut for better transport, then the baby sharks are disposed of into the ocean with the rest of the guts.
From there they are transported to the ferry terminal in Sampalan, then on to the wooden ferry to Kusamba, where they are processed: the fins, heads and rest of the guts are cut off and separated from the body. Most of the meat goes to freezer facilities in the big port of Benoa and from there to Java and the fins disappear into the international trade market to end up in some Chinese soup.
Since the year 2000 during these two months local fisherman go into the Lombok Strait with their nets for mackerel and for sharks, long lines of 100 meters with 10 hooks each. In Bali they will get about US$ 30 for the set of fins and US$ 1.5 per kilo of the meat. The average shark they are fishing these days is 35-40 kilo, but some of them go up to 65 kilo making it a profitable business for the local fishermen. Fishermen and ferry people talk of the average size becoming smaller and the population being reduced each year.
Due to the high percentage of pregnant pelagic thresher sharks we believe they have found and are targeting a parturition (birthing) and nursery area. Reports all over the world have estimated that uncontrolled long line fishing in these areas leads to the near extinction of the population of Thresher Sharks.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threathed Species, Thresher Sharks are vulnerable because
“Members of the genus Alopias, thresher sharks, are threatened from a combination of slow life history characteristics, hence low capacity to recover from moderate levels of exploitation, and high levels of largely unmanaged and unreported mortality in target (for fins and their valuable meat) and bycatch fisheries.“
Some other examples of shark fishing in Bali: Seraya.
On the beach of the world famous dive site Seraya Secrets, a few 100 meters to the west, shark fishing is a growing industry. A few months ago we found 6 fishing lines each 600 meters long, now the number has gone up to 15 lines spread along 200 meters of beach. Fishermen say they catch sharks all year round at a rate of roughly two a day. Amongst other sharks they catch hammerheads, tiger sharks, six gilled shark and bull sharks which are considered threatened species. They speak of a considerable number of rays being killed as by-catch every week.
All this within walking distance of Seraya Secrets and a few kilometres from the USAT Liberty, Bali’s most visited dive site.