Taiwan announced plans on Sunday to require fishermen to keep shark catches fully in tact until they arrive in port, a measure meant to prevent finning at sea. Taiwan, where an estimated 4 million sharks are killed annually, will become the first Asian country to implement such a regulation when it takes effect early next year.
James Sha, Director of Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency, told reporters, “Any violators may be fined, barred from leaving ports, have their catches confiscated or even have their fishing boat licenses revoked.”
For more than a decade, conservation group WildAid has been working internationally to reduce demand for shark fin, with a focus on Asia where the demand is greatest. WildAid’s unique approach uses Public Service Announcements featuring Asian stars such as NBA player Yao Ming and actor Jackie Chan to reach up to one billion people per week using pro-bono media support.
Peter Knights, WildAid’s Executive Director, says, “The news from Taiwan is an important milestone in worldwide shark conservation efforts and will hopefully set a precedent for other Asian countries to follow. In order to reverse the alarming decline of shark populations, a global movement is needed, and Taiwan has helped set the stage for such a movement to occur.”
Every year fins from up to 73 million sharks are used for shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy that can fetch up to $100 USD per bowl. Sharks are usually hauled on deck, their fins are sliced off, and the maimed sharks are tossed overboard to drown or bleed to death since shark fins are considered much more valuable than shark meat. Currently, an estimated 1/3 of pelagic shark species are threatened with extinction. As sharks play a vital role in the oceans, their depletion could cause irreparable damage to marine ecosystems.
WildAid’s mission is to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes by reducing demand through public awareness campaigns and providing comprehensive marine protection. WildAid is headquartered in San Francisco, with programming in the United States, China, India, Ecuador, Indonesia, Canada and the United Kingdom.