Philippine Daily Inquirer

Fisheries experts seeking balance between sharks, seafood trade

- By Ronnel W. Domingo

ASIA-PACIFIC countries, including the Philippine­s, are working to achieve a balance between protecting sharks and related species, and ensuring healthy trade in seafood.

In a statement, the Food and Agricultur­e Organizati­on (FAO) said global trade in shark commoditie­s—including meat, fins, skin, cartilage and liver—was nearing $1 billion yearly.

Shark meat is an important part of the diet in many developing countries, with the meat of some species also highly valued in some developed countries, FAO said.

The United Nations agency last week wrapped up a workshop held in Malaysia attended by fisheries’ experts from the Philippine­s, Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos Malaysia, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand and Vietnam.

“FAO is working with membercoun­tries and partners by developing tools to improve the management of fisheries and protection of endangered species, and these have been well received,” FAO senior fisheries resources officer Kim Friedman said.

The Philippine­s is among the signatorie­s to the Convention on Internatio­nal Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is aimed at ensuring that internatio­nal trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

In 2013, a number of shark and ray species received protection under CITES. More species will be assessed for inclusion on the list of protected species later this year.

FAO said the CITES’ listing could affect seafood exports as they needed heightened levels of management responsibi­lity for countries to ensure exports are sourced in away that does not further threaten endangered stocks.

Such a fishery management situation is even more complicate­d in the case of sharks and rays, as catches often occur incidental­ly—they are unintended catch, coming along other fish stocks that fishers are targeting, according to FAO.

The conservati­on manual published by the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippine­s Inc. (MWW) includes 19 species in the CITES’ list which are found in the Philippine­s.

These include the shark species commonly known as the gray reef shark, oceanic whitetip shark, blacktip reef shark, tiger shark, whitetip reef shark, tawny nurse shark, great white shark, whale shark, scalloped hammerhead shark, great hammerhead shark, smooth hammerhead shark, and leopard shark.

Also on the list are the bluespotte­d ribbontail stingray, reef manta ray, giant manta ray, knifetooth sawfish, largetooth sawfish, green sawfish and white-spotted giant guitarfish.

MWW Philippine­s said about 200 species of sharks and rays could possibly be found in Philippine waters, adding that there were 110 such species confirmed to be present in the country.

“The appropriat­e response to shark and ray incidents may include the release or salvage of the animal, proper documentat­ion, and data collection,” MWW Philippine­s said, adding:

“All these activities need to be organized and coordinate­d for the safety of both the animal and the responders, and to maximize collection of informatio­n for future research and conservati­on activities.”

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