I wanted to be a marine biologist for a spell as a child. I was particularly fascinated by the “big fish” – the fish and mammals that dominated the ecosystem. Sharks in particular fascinated me, being among the few species that had barely had need to evolve over millennia, so perfect was their design. It horrifies me a bit that among our local delicacies is bake-and-shark (though blessedly it isn’t always shark between the bake buns). But one of the most horrifying things in the international shark (over)fishing industry – where the sharks that end up in local nets and on the line are often babies, not adults, so quickly are they being killed off – is the practice of shark finning. Sharks are caught, their fins sliced off (preserved for international Asian markets), and the rest of the live shark thrown back into the ocean to drown, as de-finned sharks cannot swim or consequently breathe.
Protections are needed, and long overdue. And even when enacted, they are under threat by those who seek to continue to benefit from this barbaric practice. Here in T&T, there is an email campaign to our local representative at the CITES meeting in Bangkok, urging him not to reopen a vote that granted protections for some threatened species. I invite you to copy and adapt it into your own message to Johnny Seepersad (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Dear Mr Seepersad,
I trust this finds you well. I was horrified to learn that my beloved Trinidad & Tobago was the sixth largest exporter of shark fin to Hong Kong, with a horrendous 332,396kg of shark fin exported in 2011, according to that nation’s Census & Statistics Department .
This has made T&T one of the world’s leading countries in the international shark fin trade, a barbaric, unsustainable and unnecessary trade which can lead to the extinction of some shark species and disrupt delicate marine ecosystems.
I was relieved, therefore that – during the committee vote at the CITES meeting in Bangkok, – three species of hammerhead sharks, oceanic white tip sharks, porbeagle sharks and manta rays were granted much-needed special protection.
I hope, as Trinidad & Tobago’s representative at the CITES meeting in Bangkok, that you stand by this vote, and not overturn shark and manta ray protections during the final plenary full session vote.
Sincerely yours as a fellow patriot & partner in conservation…