Maharaj said Attorney General Anand Ramlogan will prepare regulations under Section 4 of the Fisheries Act to implement the ban, after a process of consultation with stakeholders. Issues to be determined include mechanisms of policing the ban, as well as penalties.
“Sharks have been the subject of the unsustainable practice of shark-finning for commercial purposes. It involves the removal of the fins of the shark, and throwing the remainder of the shark into the sea which results in the death of the shark,” Maharaj said at a post-Cabinet press briefing held at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair.
“Scientists have estimated that some of the shark populations have declined globally by more than 90 percent, and 30 percent of all shark species, assessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, are near threatened extinction.”
Maharaj said although shark-finning has not been specifically reported, or observed, “the practice may already occur.”
He cited anecdotal reports from Hong Kong’s statistical office which, in 2010, “recorded Trinidad and Tobago as their sixth largest exporter of shark fins in the world”, a matter, he said, “raised flags on an international level.” Said Maharaj, “Trinidad and Tobago as a signatory to various international, binding agreements, and in light of the destructive effects of shark-finning to populations, and the vulnerability of sharks to over-exploitation, (must see) that this practice be banned.”
In an immediate reaction, Gary Aboud, general secretary of the lobby entity known as Fishermen and Friends of the Sea, welcomed the move, but called on Government to live up to its word, and implement it. “It is definitely a move in the right direction,” Aboud said. “But is it only a camouflage, or is it only dangling a promise before the stakeholders? It is the same minister who promised a ban on trawling. What has become of that? It is very good politics to make promises. The consultation process, when will it occur?”
Keshore Boodram, of the Claxton Bay Fishermen Association, welcomed the move. “Shark is a sensitive species,” Boodram said. “We are now seeing shark coming back on stream. I would welcome the move. If you catch the shark and use the shark in its entirety, that is okay. But if you take off the fin and throw away the rest that is destroying. That used to happen with most of the foreign boats, they used to do that for many years.”
Aboud stated shark-finning was a practice which is being conducted not by smaller local fishermen, but rather foreign, large-scale, commercial entities operating within Trinidad and Tobago waters.
He explained that the economics of these larger vessels sometimes results in any captured shark being finned, and the rest of the shark discarded because the meat of larger, older sharks does not yield a high enough price to justify storage of the shark on the vessels at sea for prolonged periods of haul.