CHENNAI: A blanket ban on shark fishing is not a solution to conserve the species that is fast reducing in number, say scientists and wildlife conservation workers. The Ministry of Environment and Forests had placed a blanket ban on 51 types of sharks in 2001, and have sought to add seven more shark species to the list in September this year.
At the second National Mission Meeting on Conservation of Sharks that was held here recently, fishermen from the Chennai area shared their difficulties with the scientists involved in the preparation of the National Plan of Action for Conservation and Management of Sharks in India.
Fishermen’s report stated that although they do not practice targeted fishing of sharks, some juvenile varieties of fish get caught in nets and baits of deep sea fishermen. Even if the fish are released back into the water, they do not survive. Modern techniques in fishing can enable entrapped sharks to find an escape mechanism, says Vincent Jain, a core team member of the National Mission. “If the scientific prowess of fishermen and research work of scientists combine, an effective solution can be found to this problem,” he adds.According to research conducted by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, majority of the sharks that land on the shores are juveniles. Sharks are apex predators in the marine ecosystem and have a slower reproduction cycle since they mature only after attaining 50 per cent of their maximum size. Any disturbance in the shark population can cause an imbalance to the marine ecosystem.
The decisions regarding the conservation of top predators does not rest on scientists alone as new agreements are based on previous International binding agreements, says Y S Yadava, director, Bay of Bengal Programme Inter-Governmental Organization (BOBP-IGO). India, as a member of these inter-governmental organisations, is party to these agreements and resolutions and sooner or later has to fall in line with the decisions of the larger international community, he adds.