Fisheries experts seeking balance between sharks, seafood trade

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 member-countries 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 a way 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 blue-spotted 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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