Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Fiji Times: A place for the shark

Fear them or feel sorry for them. Time isn't on the side of the shark.

Emotional attachments may not protect them unless action is taken to create awareness about the plight of millions of sharks around the world annually.

Considering the shark has existed for 415 million years, having survived the changes of time which the dinosaurs, appearing 185 million years later, could not, their plight is deserving of attention.

Today they are on the brink of extinction.

The international demand for shark's fin, shark meat, and liver oil has reduced the shark population around the world.

Yesterday The Fiji Times started a campaign to create awareness of the great danger this predator of the sea now faces. In partnership with experts and advocates, we will bring you a series of articles and exclusive pictures to help in the protection of the often misunderstood shark, whose existence ensures there is a balance in our marine ecosystems and helps safeguard our reefs for our future generations.

The Fiji Times joins a massive campaign led by the Pew Environment Group and The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), which are working with the Fiji Government, to pass permanent protection laws to safeguard this ancient predator.

A drastic reduction in the number of sharks could cause unpredictable and irreversible damage to the ocean and to economic activities, such as tourism, that benefit from healthy marine habitats.

Sadly though, a study of the Hong Kong shark's fin market estimated that up to 73 million sharks are killed each year simply to supply the fin trade. Scientists believe there are more than 100 million sharks killed annually for fins, meat and other products.

The fact that experts have indicated changes in the number of sharks visible on guided dives in a number of tourist spots in the country is worrying. It does raise the issue of our involvement in the shark fin trade.

If that is happening in the country, it raises the issue of whether there is an opportunity for a concerted effort to find out how big the business is in Fiji.

Interestingly, the question of whether placing a ban on shark's fin soup could reduce the number of sharks killed merely for their fins annually is one that will be met with scepticism.

An effective awareness campaign targeted at the people involved in this lucrative trade could have a positive impact.

Movies like Jaws unveiled a monster of the sea.

It firmly placed the fear factor on sharks. This campaign is about putting the shark in its right place.

Lest we forget, the shark has an important place in the mechanics of marine life as we know it.

Published on the Fiji Times editorial page on Tuesday, July 19, 2011

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