Conservationists and government agencies yesterday have called for the strict protection of thresher sharks through legislations following the species inclusion in the Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species(CITES).
The development came on the heels of the convergence of delegations from different countries in Johannesburg, South Africa for the 17th Conference of Parties to the CITES from September 24 to October 5.
CITES is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
Thresher sharks’ inclusion in CITES would place the species under global protection, and also means automatic protection in the Philippines as stipulated in the Republic Act 10654 or the Amended Philippines Fisheries Code.
Thresher sharks are vital not only to marine ecosystems but also to tourism in coastal communities, but its populations are currently threatened by illegal fishing, trading and bycatch, according to Greenpeace Philippines.
Vince Cinches, Greenpeace Philippines Oceans campaigner, said they are pushing for a comprehensive policy for the protection of thresher sharks.
Thresher sharks, he said, are still not covered by existing national laws on conservation of aquatic species since there’s no provision banning the trade of shark meat.
Josephina Flores, an officer of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources-7, said thresher sharks are being hunted for their fin, which is an ingredient in the popular “shark’s fin soup.”
Dried shark fins cost P3,000 per kilo, while other shark parts are sold P80 per kilo in clandestine market or black market.
Due to reports of rampant selling of thresher sharks, the Cebu provincial government through the Provincial Board approved an ordinance seeking to prohibit fishing, taking, and possessing of shark species unless such activities are covered by a special permit “intended for scientific and/education purposes” in September 2014.
But Greenpeace, BFAR-7 and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-7 said there is a need to amend the provincial law.
Under the law, each violator is fined P1,000 only for every kilo of shark species caught, taken, possessed, transported, dealt in, sold, or disposed. Also, RA 10654 penalizes offenders with imprisonment of six months to four years with fines ranging from P500,000 to one million.
Malapascua Business Operator David Joyce said there is a need to strengthen the measures in implementing the laws which protect the sharks.
Thresher sharks had drawn tourists to flock in Malapascua Island in Daanbantayan town, northern Cebu.