When starting to analyze the data, impartiality becomes tremendously difficult through the thin veil of shock at the numbers we’re seeing. To stay unattached and not be affected is so hard when the numbers tally up to monstrous levels such as the 936 large sharks caught at Tanjung Luar in March – which is supposed to be a slow month! More numbers, like 142, which was the number of large sharks brought into the market on one single day (March, 9). We try to be objective, but our stomachs twist into tight knots. The manta and large ray numbers are acutely painful to read as well. What is happening to these beautiful majestic animals? It seems like they’re being vacuumed right out of the sea. We have to get accustomed to these types of figures because the catch from Tanjung Luar will escalate soon as the more productive fishing months draw near.
At the recent Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in Bangkok, five species of sharks – three hammerhead, oceanic white tip, and porbeagle – and both species of manta rays were listed on Appendix II which protects species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction, but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled. Previously, at the 2010 CITES meeting in Qatar, every marine species proposed was shot down. So, with the recent surge in marine interest at CITES, many are curious how the repercussions of protecting manta rays and sharks will manifest on a global level, particularly in 3rd world and developing countries which provide immense supplies of shark and manta products to the Asian markets. Also, as a result of the 18 month “socialization” period given by CITES before regulations come into effect, can we expect a mad blitz in manta ray and shark culling in order to fill warehouses to the brim with body parts?
It will also be interesting the see where things go within the national government. The Indonesian Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Sharif Cicip Sutardjo was quoted in the Jakarta Post as saying he is considering a plan to issue a decree banning shark and manta ray hunting throughout the nation. Sounds good, right? So, what’s next in the series of events to protects sharks and mantas?
The insetling observation is that as the marine conservation ball continues rolling and the new concept of a “blue economy” starts gaining momentum and the devastation of sharks and manta rays gets more recognition, unanswerable questions are arising at exponential rates. We need soluntions. There is a lot of media coverage, legislation, protests, awareness, sympathy, etc., but how does it all translate on the ground in the market of Tanjung Luar?
As the catch numbers flood in, we’ll find out over the next year.