`No review of ban on fishing of sharks'

CHENNAI March 29. The Environment Ministry will not consider any further representation against the ban imposed on fishing of sharks and other marine species such as sea cucumber and sea horses.

Further to the July 11, 2001 comprehensive restriction, the Ministry lifted the total ban by another notification on December 5 and instead listed nine species of sharks, besides retaining the curb on sea horses and sea cucumber.

While sea horses come under schedule I of the July 11 notification, sea cucumber has been listed under schedule IV in the endangered category.

Speaking to The Hindu, the Union Environment Minister, T.R. Baalu, said the Government restriction relating to sea horse and sea cucumber was consequent to a detailed study and there was no question of reviewing it, as in the case of sharks.

``It is only the trading community which is lobbying against the ban,'' he said. The common sea cucumber species, Holothuria, found mostly in the Gulf of Mannar, spawn twice a year and have a life span of 10 years. They are normally collected in shallow waters and form a supplementary income to the fisherfolk. They are also netted by trawlers as a by-catch and despite limited availability, they have a good export potential.

A Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) study on sea horses has found that the species have come to command a good export market, following decline in sea cucumber harvest over the years.

The sea horses are sought by the South-east Asian countries, especially in China and Singapore, where it is a delicacy and an ingredient of medicinal value.

The study also recommended that curbs be made against indiscriminate harvesting of the species for its sustained existence. The CMFRI succeeded in rearing the species in a controlled environment, but no largescale rearing has been attempted.

Taking into consideration the dwindling fish catches and meagre returns of the fisherfolk community, experts feel a total ban on the two species could be put off for the present, until proper stock estimates, potential and harvest details are compiled.

A restriction could be made on the size of the species harvested, to allow juveniles to spawn. However, the monitoring process and identification of an agency, to implement the restrictions would be difficult.

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