Saving the sharks before it is too late

The share of sharks in total fish landings has declined by more than 64 per cent from 1985 to 2013.  

Sharks, the giants of oceans, are at risk in Indian waters prompting the marine scientists to draw up an action plan to save them.

The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Kochi, has drawn up an action plan — Guidance on National Plan of Action (NPOA) for Sharks in India — in line with the International Plan of Action for conservation and management of sharks, developed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Assessing the fish landing trends, scientists at the CMFRI pointed out that the “the share of sharks in total fish landings has declined by more than 64 per cent from 1985 to 2013.” The “annual shark landings have hovered within the range of 50-70 thousand tonnes,” pointed out the plan.

It is a fact that there has been considerable decline in the shark landings in the country and the species are found in fewer numbers in the coastal waters, said P.U. Zacharia, a scientist of the Institute and one of the authors of the plan.

The authors of the report pointed out that the biological features like “slow growth, large size and longevity, slow turnover of generations, late maturation and production of few (but well-developed) off-springs,” as spelling doom for the sharks.

It is estimated that 160 species of sharks are known to occur in India’s commercial fishing zone. Requiem sharks, Hammer-heads, Threshers, Mackerel sharks, Bamboo sharks and Hound sharks are the major contributors to the commercial fishery. The “low biological productivity makes them vulnerable to fishing, with limited chance for recovery,” the Action plan pointed out.

A. Gopalakrishnan, CMFRI Director, pointed out that sustainable shark fishing was practised in India by artisanal fishermen before the introduction of mechanised fishing, which led to sharks being landed as by-catch.

Later, in the 1990s, targeted shark fishing began when the demand for sharks increased in international markets.

Although there was increase in shark catches initially there has been a consistent decline in the last one decade which has raised serious concern on this resource,” he pointed out.

As a conservation measure 10 shark species have been included in the Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act. While the trade of shark fins and plate is regulated, a ban has been imposed on shark finning and export/import of shark fins in the country. Yet, strategies to avoid protected or trade-regulated species from capture in directed as well as multispecies fisheries do not exist, pointed our Dr. Gopalakrishnan.

The NPOA Plan calls for strengthening of database on fishery, abundance and biology of sharks, utilisation, market channels and trade, undertaking coordinated, need-specific research and development programmes, improve coordination and consultation between management, research and stakeholder groups and review of existing conservation and management measures and implement improved strategies.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2020 6:22:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/saving-the-sharks-before-it-is-too-late/article7375197.ece

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