Unsustainable shark fishing is a global issue that affects all of us

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2011, 12:00am

Charlie Lim, of the Marine Products Association ('Campaign hype doesn't help', March 19) dismisses my previous letter ('Red herrings introduced into fin debate', March 4) as 'campaign hype'.

I am not a campaigner.

I am just a teacher and a diver who is concerned that the overwhelming opinion of marine scientists worldwide is that the shark fishing industry is no longer being run sustainably as a result of the massive increase in the demand for shark fins from Asia. Scientific research is not 'hype'.

He firstly claims that my criticism of the industry is 'illogical' because the industry itself would have a 'logical' vested interest in improving sustainability.

He should be absolutely correct.

Sadly, however, the fishing industry generally has a terrible record of ignoring logical sustainability in favour of short-term profits. The total collapse of the Newfoundland cod industry in 1992, with the loss of more than 40,000 jobs, came about after almost a decade of warnings from scientists were ignored by the industry and the government.

Clearly, short-sighted greed played a greater part than logic in those events.

The fishing industry is not unique in behaving in this way.

Perhaps Mr Lim could counter my 'unsubstantiated' criticism by outlining for readers what policies his industry has put into place to ensure that finning is being done on a sustainable (and legal) basis.

I am not really sure what his second point was, so I apologise if I have misunderstood it.

It seems that he is claiming that shark fin is an 'imported by-product' from 'distant lands'.

If this were Australia, that would make some sense, but to suggest that shark fin is a 'by-product' in Asia is absurd. It is the product.

There is ample video and photographic evidence of piles of dead carcasses of sharks minus their fins, and fisherman catching sharks, finning them and then dropping them back in to drown, to demonstrate what the demanded product actually is.

A large whale shark carcass was washed up in the Philippines last year. Guess what was missing.

Why is the campaign in Hong Kong? Because it is the centre of the industry in Asia, and Asia is the centre of the demand.

Finally, Mr Lim has taken his previously debunked cultural practice argument to a new level by appealing to chauvinistic Chinese nationalism.

I am sorry, Mr Lim, but the biodiversity of our marine ecosystem is part of the global commons and far too important, for all the world's people, to be considered the sole domain of your high-end, soup-drinking clients, wherever they may be from. You do not own the world's oceans.

Kerry Hasell, Tai Hang