These shocking pictures reveal the scale of the world’s trade in shark fins for use in traditional herbal medicines and in the much sought after shark-fin soup.
Taken last month at Denpasar harbour on the Indonesian island of Bali, the images record the sheer number of individual shark fins being readied for transportation to the islands restaurants.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of the shark fins are brought into the harbour everyday and frozen.
But the bodies are simply tossed back into the water from giant ocean going trawlers after being caught.
Sharks’ fins are consumed as a luxury food item in Asia, with shark fins being sold for up to £150.
And demand for them is growing due to rising affluence in the region.
Indonesia, where theses graphic images were taken, leads the world in shark fin catches.
Figures from the World Wildlife Fund and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, show that in for 2006 alone 98,250 tonnes of shark fins were caught and sold, making up 13 percent of the world market.
Renowned freelance photographer, Gunther Deichmann, 58, who photographed the shark fin haul, is adamant the world should confront the growing issue of shark fin trading.
‘The volume of fins they were unloading was incredible, compared with the loads that the other tuna fishermen were working on,’ said Manila-based Gunther.
Working freelance on a commercial project, Gunther caught the every day fishing scene just by chance.
‘I was doing a shoot for a Balinese restaurant and we were shooting the fresh produce aspect. It was at the harbour that I noticed this fishing haul so I started shooting.
‘This kind of fishing is totally legal in Indonesia so I was not in danger or in anybody’s face.
‘The scale of the trawlers that catch the fish, the number of fishermen on site and the number of loads they unpacked from the ships was simply industrial in scale,’ Gunther added.
Gunther noticed hammerhead and black tip sharks in the haul and was particularly struck by the knowledge sharks are thrown back into the water alive and tailless, condemned to a rudderless, painful death.
“The sad thing about the catch is that they will just pack up and go out and do it again.
‘This is a multi-million dollar industry and will not be stopped until all the sharks have been eaten it seems.
‘I really don’t know what all the fuss is about. The soup doesn’t even taste good in my opinion,’ he added.
As shark fishing continues to increase, populations are rapidly going into decline.
In 2005 TRAFFIC reported global trade in shark-based products stands at £210m.
In light of these new images, Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Global Marine Programme Leader, described the impact of illegal fishing as an unacceptable additional threat to the survival of populations of sharks.
‘We simply don’t know enough about the scale of global shark fishing practices to assess the true impact that legitimate fishing is having,’ says Glenn.
‘Many so-called managed shark fisheries are not constrained in any way to ensure they are sustainable, which opens up the threat of over-fishing.’
The South-East-Asian market for shark fin is the key reason for shark fishing worldwide.
Sharks are particularly vulnerable to over-fishing because they grow slowly, are late to mature and produce relatively few young.
Currently more than a fifth of shark species are listed as threatened with extinction according to a report published this month by TRAFFIC.
In Hong Kong, the world’s largest shark-fin market, the species whose fins are most commonly recorded in trade are hammerhead and black-tip sharks.
In 2000, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation encouraged member countries to step up their management of their shark populations.
But seven years later fewer than 20 per cent of members had introduced plans.
Demand for shark fins outstrips supply and for the Asian fishermen this will lead to sustainability problems and ultimately their livelihoods.
Source: Daily Mail