Friday, February 24, 2012

Illegal Shark Fishing Bust in the Marshalls

Excellent news coming out of the Marshall Islands this week as the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority has ramped up their enforcement efforts and have begun issuing fines to vessels violating last October's declaration of the Marshall Islands Shark Sanctuary, the largest of its kind in the world. The story of a US$125,000 fine for one Japanese vessel is receiving international attention (here, here, here, here, and here) and kudos from across the globe. Here is the story from Majuro's hometown paper, the Marshall Islands Journal:

SHARK ATTACK
MIMRA HUNTS DOWN ALL OF THE ILLEGAL TAKERS OF FINS

Enforcement of the new ban on shark fishing in the RMI is stepping up, with MIMRA and law enforcement personnel boarding dozens of vessels, and confiscating shark fins, skins, and fishing gear.

Last month, MIMRA levied and received a $125,000 fine against the Japanese transshipment vessel Satsuma, the first fine issued under the PL2011-63, Fisheries Amendment Act of 2011 that went into force late last year.

Director Glen Joseph
“It is illegal to have sharks on board,” said MIMRA Director Glen Joseph. MIMRA began enforcing the ban on sharks and shark fins late last year, initially confiscating gear but not issuing fines. Instead, enforcement officers put commercial fishermen — and others — on notice that they faced future fines if they continue to bring shark and shark products through the RMI. An unannounced raid at the Marshall Islands Fishing Venture late last year resulted in the boarding of many vessels and confiscation of sharks and shark fishing gear, said MIMRA enforcement officer Marcella Tarkwon.

She said enforcement teams have boarded dozens of longliners and transshipment vessels in Majuro over the past two months.

“We’ve sent notices (about the law) to all agents,” Tarkwon said. “They are responsible to let the vessels know.”

Both Joseph and Tarkwon said when enforcement personnel find sharks, the captains and crew offer many excuses: “We didn’t know about the law,” “they were not caught in the RMI,” or “they were caught before the law was approved.”

“It doesn’t matter where the sharks were caught,” Joseph said. “If you have shark on board, you are in violation of the law.”

“The gear (locally-based) longliners were using is prohibited by the shark law,” said Tarkwon. “We went through 41 longliners based at MIFV. We confiscated sharks and cut off fishing gear (from the vessels) and burned the fins.” A week later, a visit to MIFV found “the vessels clean, with no sign of sharks,” Tarkwon said.

“We work with the police and go as a team,” she said.

Written by Giff Johnson and published in the Marshall Islands Journal on February 24, 2012
A job well done to Glen Joseph and his team at the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority!

Show your support for the Marshall Islands Shark Sanctuary and the proposed Micronesia Regional Shark Sanctuary by liking Micronesia Shark Defenders on Facebook.

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