Development of sustainable fisheries too slow to conserve shark population

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 December, 2011, 12:00am


In September, a fishery for spiny dogfish in British Columbia, Canada, was certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), making it the world's first MSC shark fishery.

The MSC is an independent non-profit organisation and its assessment programme requires healthy fish stocks, minimal ecosystem impacts, and an effective fisheries management system.

Globally, overfishing is the most significant threat to many shark species, and this fishery is the first to demonstrate through assessment to the MSC's demanding standards, that sharks can be fished sustainably.

While WWF is flattered to be quoted again by Charlie Lim of the Marine Products Association ('Sustainable fishing is what matters', November 30) as supporting the MSC certification, we would like to make our position clear.

WWF believes that the MSC is the only credible eco-label currently available for wild capture fisheries, and supports the MSC certification for the British Columbia spiny dogfish fishery, of which meat and lower-grade fin are products.

However, this is only one small fishery in global terms, and the development of sustainable fisheries for sharks is likely to be far too slow to effectively conserve shark populations in most parts of the world. Other actions will be necessary to conserve sharks.

Furthermore, WWF believes that current and future levels of demand for shark fins are likely to be far higher than can be met from sustainably managed fisheries.

Given the dire future facing sharks, it is critical that the consumption of shark fins in key markets like Hong Kong is greatly reduced, to minimise this major economic incentive for fishers to target sharks.

For those people who still insist on eating shark fins, buying sustainable shark fins should at least guarantee they are supporting sustainable fisheries. However, consumers should only purchase shark product with an MSC label and intact packaging. The label should carry the Chain of Custody certificate number by which the customer can trace the origin of the product.

WWF is not aware that such a product is available in Hong Kong yet, but even if it becomes available, will continue to strongly recommend that businesses, individuals and the government stop eating all non-MSC shark fin.

Silvy Pun, WWF programme officer, sharks