The disturbing discovery by a Phuket News reader of the selling of endangered hammerhead sharks in Kata market has been exasperated by the shocking realisation that the practice is not ‘technically’ illegal.
Gwyn Mills, CEO of Pattaya-based environmental organisation Dive Tribe, explained that the laws in Thailand regarding fishing practices are murky at best.
“It largely depends on where they’ve been caught... There are harsher penalties if they’ve been caught in a National Park as opposed to open waters for example.”
Oceanic whitetip sharks and hawksbill turtles appear to have little in common, but sadly they share a similar fate - both are highly valued for just one of their body parts, while the rest of the animal is usually discarded.
Hawksbill turtle shells are used for jewellery and souvenirs, while the oceanic whitetip's long, curved fins are highly prized for shark fin soup. In both cases the flesh is less valuable and often discarded, though whitetip shark meat is consumed in some regions.
Monday, European Union nations backed a complete ban on the practice of removing sharks' fins before throwing the fish back into the sea to die.
The EU nations said they want all boats in their waters and EU-registered boats anywhere in the world to land sharks with their fins attached. The proposals still need the support of the European Parliament before they can become law.
EU fisheries chief Maria Damanaki said the law would "ease control and help us eradicate shark finning," which she called cruel to the animals and a vast waste of resources.
Last week the European Parliament began its work on the Commission’s proposal to close major loopholes in the EU ban on shark finning submitted in the fall of 2011.
The European Commission has proposed ending special permits that allow fishermen to cut off shark fins at sea and land them separately from the bodies under a legal exemption to the overall EU requirement for landing sharks with their fins naturally attached.
ICCAT protects silky sharks, leaves porbeagles vulnerable and finning ban weak
Fishing nations at the annual meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) have acted on one of three shark conservation proposals. ICCAT Parties adopted protections for silky sharks, based on a proposal from the EU, Brazil, and the US. Proposals to protect porbeagle sharks and to strengthen the ICCAT ban on shark finning (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea) were defeated.
Scientists and law-makers across the world are prioritising the protection of sharks, but critics say the measures don't work.
The shark that lands on the deck of the Coral Princess boat is 6.5ft of thrashing grey muscle and teeth, and the crew can't wait to get their hands on him.
They slip a plastic breathing tube through rows of sharp, serrated teeth to pump water over its gills, and get to work: measuring, taking blood and tissue samples, and drilling a small hole in its dorsal fin to attach a satellite transmitter. The device looks a bit like a bath toy.