Sunday, 4 November 2012

Pacific sharks disappearing into soup: study


Pacific stocks of the oceanic whitetip shark, a favourite of fin soup enthusiasts, sank by as much as 17 percent a year between 1995 and 2010 despite catch and finning limits, a study said Wednesday.
And the north Pacific blue shark, also sought after by Asian chefs, showed a worrying population decline of about five percent per year, according to the research published in the journal Conservation Biology.
Using data collected by onboard observers of catches in the western and central Pacific over a 15-year period, the study also revealed a decline in shark size -- a key indicator of overfishing.
"These results... heighten concerns for the sustainability of Pacific shark populations," said a statement.
The drop in whitetip sharks represented a "severe decline" for a species that does not reproduce quickly, study co-author Shelley Clarke told AFP.
"It was also very surprising to see a sharp decline for North Pacific blue fin sharks which are relatively much more productive than the oceanic whitetip sharks".
The research was conducted by the oceanic fisheries programme of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) -- a regional intergovernmental body.
The findings suggest that bans on finning -- the practice of slicing the fins off a living shark and dumping it back into the water to die -- were not helping to reduce the numbers being killed.
This was "likely due to a combination of poor enforcement and increasing markets for shark meat," said the statement.
The oceanic whitetip, which lives in tropical waters, is the only shark species subject to catch limits in the Pacific.



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