Fishermen Confirm Shark Finning on Tuna Longliners
The cruel yet lucrative shark fin trade is back in the headlines and it’s clearly something people care deeply about, public pressure and a petition signed by nearly 180,000 people, prompted shipping giant UPS to ban shipments of shark fins.
Shark finning is the slicing off of shark fins and throwing the mutilated body, too often still alive, back into the ocean.
In this shocking new video tuna fishermen reveal that the horrific practice continues in the Pacific today.
“…even if it was still alive we would cut the fin.”
The interviews were shot in a South Pacific port earlier this year. The men are tuna fishermen from Indonesia, who asked us to mask their identities for their protection.
Despite various national and international laws against it, shark finning still plagues global tuna fisheries, where fishermen sometimes keep the valuable fins to supplement their often meagre incomes.
There’s a serious credibility gap between the reported catches of sharks and the number of fins getting to the market. Someone’s not telling the truth – rules are often ignored when there’s so much money at stake.
In the Pacific, most sharks, aside from a few protected species like silky and oceanic white tip sharks, can ‘legally’ be caught and retained as bycatch. Although finning is banned, the rules allow fins to be cut off if shark bodies are kept and the total weight of fins is no more than 5% of the total weight of sharks. The rule might be okay in theory but shark meat is low value and takes up valuable hold space, and there’s a lot of variation in fin size between shark species, so it’s an easy fiddle.
The fishing grounds are far from law and land, and with less than 1% of longliner fishing activity in the Western Central Pacific watched by independent observers, it really is an industry out-of-control.
To add to the chaos, some tuna boats transfer their catch to other fishing boats or to motherships, tossing sacks of shark fins from ship to ship so they turn up in the distant ports of the world without paperwork or provenance.
“…in the middle of the sea, it is offloaded, so when we go to land the fins are already not there.”
There are an estimated
100 million sharks killed each year. Sharks get caught almost every time a longline is set (over 90% of the time
) regularly make up 25% of the catch in tuna longline fisheries, and can make up as much as 50% of the catch
in some billfish longline fisheries. Today nearly one-third of open-ocean shark species are considered threatened and many species of shark could soon be extinct if we don’t change the way tuna is fished.
And for what?
Shark fins are the principal ingredient in shark fin soup, a ‘delicacy’ that fetches up to $100 a bowl. Shark fin soup consumers are often shocked to learn of the suffering behind their meal, and tuna consumers should be horrified to learn that finning takes place on many of the very same boats that catch their tuna.
Too much of the tuna caught on Pacific longliners is linked to illegal and unethical practices, whether sharkfinning, the exploitation of workers, or the emptying of our oceans. It’s time consumers, brands and fishing companies call a halt to these destructive practices.
Consumers want tuna they can feel good about eating, but tuna caught in tandem with shark finning can only ever be bad tuna. UPS have announced they will no longer support this cruel trade, now it’s up to the big tuna brands to deliver more than just words and stamp out this horrific process.