With the shark population in the seas around the country showing signs of an “alarming” decline, conservation should focus on creating sanctuaries for the endangered marine animal, said speakers at the third mission on conservation of sharks held here on Thursday.
Based on the shark catch reported at harbours and ports, Shobha Ghosh, Senior Scientist, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute – Chennai, said over 90 per cent of the sharks caught were below maturity age – that is, they were killed before they had the chance to breed. Moreover, the biggest impact of the over-fishing was on around 17 sub-species of sharks, which could potentially wipe out their populations.
To conserve the shark population – which is listed as an endangered species in India – the Institute was looking at a two-pronged approach. One, was to define a “minimum size” per sub-species, so that when the shark is caught the fisherman can determine if the shark has attained maturity level or not. Second, was to protect the “breeding” grounds of the sharks in the oceans.
“Using the knowledge of fishermen, we can identity areas, and the seasons that are conducive for shark breeding. We can then set about protecting these sites,” said Ms. Ghosh.
Scientists at the workshop pointed out that the rate of fishing far exceeded the breeding rate of sharks, and this was among the reasons for the estimated 43 per cent decline in shark population in the waters around the country.
The need for sanctuaries was reiterated by V.K. Shetty, Managing Director of Karnataka Fisheries Development Corporation, who said the current laws for regulation of fishing were “difficult to implement”.
M.L. Srivastava, Deputy Inspector General of Forests (Wildlife), Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change, said 10 critically endangered species of sharks and manta rays has already been added to Schedule I of the wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
“There is a gap between the perspectives of policymakers, researchers and fishermen on conservation. There is a lot more to be done for a practical solution to be obtained,” he said.
However, he expressed optimism that the adoption of CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) resolutions of September, there will be tighter regulation on export of sharks and shark fins.
On the setting up of sanctuaries, he said there was a need for greater scientific data before the government could come to a decision.