In a distressing incident recently, six huge sharks were caught in the fishing net of a trawler, off Mumbai coast. Over fishing of sharks is a matter of grave concern as it disrupts the ecology of oceans and disturbs the marine food chain. Their diminishing population calls for immediate regulatory measures, primarily sustainable fishing.

Uncontrolled fishing has been the major cause of threat to sharks all over the world. What makes the high number of catches a threat is that like tigers in the forests, sharks are top of the food chain in the oceans and when they die in such huge numbers, it automatically creates a huge imbalance in the ocean world.

In the recent incident, each of the sharks caught weighed an average of 1.5 tonnes measuring nearly 10 feet. According to fishermen, apart from the 6 sharks that were caught, four more managed to escape tearing the fish net. The dead sharks were brought to Sasson dock, where they were sold at Rs. 200 a K.g in the open market. The fisher men of Sasson dock even found some juvenile sharks in the body of a female shark that was sold.

Deepak Apte, a marine biologist from BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society), took serious note of indiscriminate fishing which was detrimental to ecology of oceans.

He said, “Since sharks are on top of the food chain, the unsustainable fishing methods practised here destroy the entire marine food chain.”

Added to this problem is that sharks take a long time to mature i.e. to reach the reproductive age, at times even up to 15 years.

A CMFRI scientist S.G.Raje observed that “Shark species have a slow growth, long gestation period and they take several years to mature. As a result, they become much more prone to depletion than other species.”

What marine ecologists are also concerned about is that sharks are solitary animals, but the fact that 10 sharks were caught at a time in the net is pointer to the possibility that they might have come together for either breeding or for common feeding location. This is the second time that such a huge haul has been made by fishermen in the last two years.

Fishing industry analysts point out that there is growing demand in consumption of shark meat in the open markets. In Taiwan, Hongkong and Singapore, shark fin is considered a delicacy. Considering the high price they fetch, it is not easy to persuade the fisherman to give up his ‘catch’.

Marine experts believe that indiscriminate fishing could wipe out a whole generation of sharks. So it is necessary to enforce regulatory limits on the size of sharks which would in turn provide a chance for the not-yet mature sharks to mature and reproduce. The suggestion includes providing protection to the female sharks.

Former curator of Taraporewala Aquarioum and marine biologist Dr. B.F Chhapgar said “A total ban on shark fishing will not serve the purpose. Sometimes sharks are accidentally caught in the net.”

He felt was it was essential to curtail overfishing of sharks, be it one’s concern for the sharks or for the oceans; safe guarding marine ecology is beneficial to all.

“The only solution to the overfishing of sharks is sustainable fishing,” he summed up.

-Guest Writer

Article reference: TOI

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About Atula Gupta

Atula Gupta is the Founder and Editor of indiasendangered.com. Her work has appeared in a number of international websites, dailies and magazines including The Wire, Deccan Herald, New Indian Express, Down to Earth and Heritage India on issues related to environment and its conservation. She is also the author of Environment Science Essentials, a set of books for school children. She hopes this website provides a platform for people to be aware about species in the verge of extinction and heighten their conservation efforts.

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