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What to do with sharks caught by accident: the dilemma that the Colombian Government faces with animal rights activists

2024-02-24T05:02:01.880Z

Highlights: Ministry of Agriculture's proposal to allow sharks caught by accident to be used generated doubts and false information. In fact, finning has not been allowed in Colombia since 2007. Since 2021, there have been 17 artisanal fishermen who were sanctioned or taken to the Police for having a shark in their boats when arriving at port. Unlike finning, when a fisherman catches a shark by accident, he uses all of its meat and not just its fins, which are usually eaten smoked. “It's like they tell you that you can no longer do journalism, that it is prohibited”


The Ministry of Agriculture's proposal that seeks to allow sharks and rays caught by accident to be used generated doubts and false information. Finning is still prohibited


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Sharks have been something to talk about in recent weeks in Colombia.

And not exactly in the best way.

The modification that the Government of Gustavo Petro seeks to make to a decree published during the previous Administration of Iván Duque so that sharks and rays that come from bycatch – caught by accident – ​​can be used has generated a whirlwind and confusion.

In addition, it has confronted the Minister of Agriculture, Jhenifer Mojica, with animal activists - who are not necessarily environmentalists -, and created panic over the false idea that what the last document was doing was allowing finning in Colombia, a cruel practice. which consists of cutting off the shark's dorsal and lateral fins, and throwing the rest into the sea.

But as with most polarizing topics, deep down it is a discussion full of nuances.

Broadly speaking, it could be said that the dilemma began in March 2021, when the president of that time, Duque, and his Minister of the Environment, Carlos Correa, signed a decree that determined that sharks, marine rays and chimeras were no longer They could be considered a fishing resource in the country and, instead, became a hydrobiological resource.

This meant that fishing for them was prohibited - even if it was the result of accidental capture - and that the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (Aunap) no longer looked after them.

But the document generated two problems.

Mónica Leonor Mosquera, representative of the Federation of Artisanal Fishermen of the Colombian Pacific Coast, which brings together 26 organizations, says that, for them, Duque's decree criminalized the practices of artisanal fishermen in the region.

“We do not do targeted fishing for sharks or finning, as some media outlets have said.

What happens is that we have collective fishing gear, with which we cannot prevent one of these species from sometimes falling.

And because of the fear of being sanctioned, the fishermen began to be afraid to go out fishing, putting our livelihood and food sovereignty at risk.”

Unlike finning, when a fisherman catches a shark by accident, he uses all of its meat and not just its fins, which are usually eaten smoked.

Artisanal fishermen sanctioned

Mosquera recalls that, since 2021, there have been 17 artisanal fishermen who were sanctioned or taken to the Police for having a shark in their boats when arriving at port.

"On one occasion, one of them was asked to report to the Police every day and, since the fishermen do two or three tasks a month in which they last between 10 and 12 days outside, that prevented him from going out fishing. ”, he assures.

He explains that even the shark-smoking women have been persecuted.

“It's like they tell you that you can no longer do journalism, that it is prohibited.”

The other “but” is commented on by Vladimir Puentes, a marine biologist with a doctorate in fisheries sciences.

“By ceasing to be a fishing resource, Aunap ceased to have jurisdiction over sharks, rays and chimeras, so it did not continue keeping statistics on what happened to these species for three years,” he explains.

“In addition, since the fishermen knew that if they saw them with a shark in their boats they would be fined, they preferred to hide them.

And without data and information, you cannot have conservation or sustainable management of these species.”

Since 2021, and even before Duque's decree was published – because Mosquera insists that he never socialized – his community made its opposition clear.

“We held marches, we sent documents, letters and recommendations.”

And this year, through the Ministry of Equality, they managed to be heard, which, in part, gave rise to the Ministry of Agriculture to report that it is working on an Aunap resolution that would modify part of the 2021 decree so that 11 species of shark and four of marine rays become fishing resources again.

This document, which is still a draft and is open to comments until this Saturday, February 24, insists that fishing directed at sharks, rays and chimeras, as well as finning, is still prohibited.

In fact, finning has not been allowed in Colombia since 2007. But to avoid any confusion, the second version of the draft resolution says that all shark fins resulting from bycatch must be delivered to the Aunap, the authority that will store or incinerate them.

This would prevent their trade, which is illegal, and which usually takes them to Hong Kong, where they make dishes and soups that can cost up to $200.

However, there are still many doubts about what is on paper.

Juan Manuel Díaz, Program Coordinator of the Colombia office of the MarViva Foundation, believes that the Government's current proposal “has good intentions, but it is an improvised solution.”

“It is good that it is noted that the products of bycatch can be used, but the problem that worries us or generates suspicions is why they chose those 15 species that will once again be fishing resources,” he indicates.

Some of these species, such as the thresher shark (

Alopias pelagicus

) and the silky shark (

Carcharhinus falciformis

), are the favorites for finning, while others are species that tend to fall more into the bycatch of the fishing industry than in artisanal fishing. .

“This could open the door to fluttering, which, although illegal, continues to happen.

Due to the species chosen, it would seem that what they want is to benefit the largest fishing industry.”

Furthermore, the expert comments, one of the three species of hammerhead shark that is on the Aunap list is one that is in critical danger of extinction.

Mosquera, who is also a national representative before the Technical Advisory Committee of the Aunap and General Secretary of the National Network of Women Aquaculture Fishermen Defenders of Territories and Culture (Ranamupes), explains that what the authority did was select the species that most fall by incidental capture.

But there are other doubts about the list.

Puentes is also critical of the list, although in a direction contrary to that of Díaz: he believes that there should be more species that become a fishing resource, since this way we will have more data about them and we will know how to manage them in a sustainable way.

“I told that to Aunap and the Ministry of the Environment in a meeting that took place last Saturday [which was attended by several experts, including Díaz].

"That they were wrong on that list, because we know what criteria they chose."

And it is a discussion that has both substance and breadth.

Díaz, for example, although he believes that the Government should do something to regulate the use of bycatch and not harm communities, he does not believe that turning sharks into a fishing resource is the best way.

Puentes believes otherwise.

“The greatest pressure that sharks have is their fishing, so if we do not understand it from there, if it is not regulated and managed from their fishing, we will not be able to have management plans.

I do believe that that is the right path.”

Díaz, for example, also wonders what percentage of sharks will be accepted as bycatch.

“A shark, ten tons or 30 tons?

Who determines that?”

However, what both do agree on is that – with or without a list – fishing and species conservation authorities need accelerated strengthening to reduce bycatch.

The country requires that not only the vessels be monitored in port, but that, hopefully, there is an observer on them.

But the resources allocated to this issue seem to be minimal, especially in a country that prides itself on having two seas and 176 species of rays and sharks.

Source: elparis

All news articles on 2024-02-24

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