Monday, December 19, 2011

The Fiji Times: Queen of Sharks

Photo: Ivamere Rokovesa
GOD created all living things with a purpose.

And it is important that one must understand that and being able to strike a balance between living creatures, our culture and our surroundings.

Triumphant Miss Fiji Alisi Rabukawaqa, who flew back home with the Miss South Pacific crown last week, took this message with her to the pageant in Samoa.

In an interview with The Fiji Times yesterday, Miss Rabukawaqa said shark conservation was an issue that needed to be highlighted so there was an understanding of the importance of this creature to the ocean ecological system.

The 24-year old, originally from Vuya, Bua on Vanua Levu, also holds this issue close to her heart given the cultural significance of sharks that is a totem to the people of Cakaudrove where her mum hails from.

She drove the issue across to fellow Pacific Islanders and pageant contestants in Samoa, via the different categories she participated in.

In the Sarong category, Miss Rabukawaqa wore fabric with hammerhead sharks printed on it ù designed by artist brothers Warwick and Craig Marlow.

"For our ancestors, sharks were the protectors and now, they are being protected," she said.

"We need to protect these creatures because of the important role they play in the ecological food chain."

Miss Rabukawaqa said one thing was for sure ù sharks were in danger, attributed largely to fin trading.

"There is illegal shark fishing going on where fins of sharks are removed when they are caught and they are thrown back to the sea and they will not be able to swim, they will drown and this is just plain cruelty," she said.

Following the pageant, she said she loved to believe that her message on shark conservation was conveyed across eloquently, given the feedback and interest from people who approached her with more questions on the issue.

"There were people who were interested in the shark painting on my sarong and it was also an opportunity to tell them about the plight of sharks," Miss Rabukawaqa said.

She said for the Pacific, people related more to their culture and how such issues held symbolic significance in their respective villages.

Miss Rabukawaqa said she would "definitely" support initiatives that continued to promote shark conservation and join in efforts to help protect these lucrative predators.

Meanwhile, Global Shark Conservation PEW Environment Group manager Jill Hepp said increased awareness were being conducted locally to protect sharks.

"We're concerned because sharks play an important role in the ecosystem and they are an important component in the protection of coral reefs," Ms Hepp said.

She said between 70 to 90 per cent of sharks decline in global waters annually because of the demand for fin soup.

"That trend is concerning because sharks, unlike other fish, takes a long time to reproduce."

Ms Hepp also revealed that some 73 million shark fins are traded every year, which was an enormous scale.

On the global front, for Taiwan in particular, she said they caught about 49,000 tonnes a year ranking them number four in terms of global shark catches.

"They're a big player. Their vessels are fishing everywhere," she added.

Published in The Fiji Times on Monday, December 19. Written by Timoci Vula.


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