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Taking the road less traveled Spending a year in five continents to embrace my "inner turtle", to live simply, and to avoid being shark bait!

Grimmest Day to Continue...

MOZAMBIQUE | Sunday, 20 May 2012 | Views [683]

Bowmouth guitar ray shark, now worthless with its gills and fins

Bowmouth guitar ray shark, now worthless with its gills and fins

Following the dramatic fishing and finning event on the 15th, Marine Megafauna Foundation, the Tofo diving community, and several local businesses jumped into action.  We found out an important fact:  the "success" of catching the sharks was due to a sophisticated fishing boat given to the Tofo fishermen by the Mozambique ruling political party as a "thank you" for their support during the last election (such is the corruption in this nation).  This boat and its net are bigger and sturdier than the wooden row boats that most fishermen here are accustomed to; it has more power to cast a much larger net with more precision.  On Tuesday, the MMF researchers had taken videos and photos of the shark finning that took place on the beach, in direct view of sunbathers and tourists; I saw the videos for myself, and it was just like the ones I've seen before on CNN or National Geographic, except this time the finning happened on a beach that I walk on daily.  The finning "expert" uses nothing more than a large knife (sort of like a machete) and with bare hands and much precision, expertly cuts the fins from the top, tail, and belly of the sharks; it was obvious he has done this many times before, and knew the cleaner the cut, the more money he will fetch for the fins.  Among the five sharks he finned was a hammerhead, one of the most unique-looking sharks, and they all range from just under one meter (practically baby sharks) to about three meters in length.  It took the guy no more than 15 minutes to fin all the sharks; when done, he put all the fins in a blue plastic bag and "dust off his hands", marking the end of the handiwork.  The carcass of the sharks, now worthless, were then dragged to the market (which was where I saw them after my dive) to be sold for not much money, even though the meat is full of mercury.

As heart wrenching and upsetting it was to watch the videos, I felt it was important to view the reality of what happened.  100,000,000 sharks are killed every year worldwide by humans.  Yes, you read correctly, 100,000,000 sharks; now consider the reverse:  less than a dozen humans on average are reported killed by sharks every year around the world, so who should be afraid of whom?  Every species of sharks has declined by more than 50% in the last 15 years.  Many shark species are the top predators of the food chain, and if gone or significantly decreased, that upsets and even collapses the marine ecosystem.  This is a serious issue; this isn't about siding with the sharks over other humanity issues like orphans or AIDS or famine.  Earth is made up mostly of water, over 75%, and if the marine ecosystem collapses, that is a direct impact to us humans on land.

On Wednesday the 16th, us All Out Africa volunteers circulated around Tofo a nicely written petition by MMF to gather signatures from tourists, citing support for local fishermen but also government action to regulate unsustainable fishing practices.  Almost everyone we talked to had heard or seen what happened the day before and were supportive (only one party refused to sign).  We also found out that the fishermen cast the net that night so we were ready for another carnage the next day.

The following morning, the fishing boat came back as expected and with yet more sharks, three total.  The fishermen were less obvious this time and did not drag their catch onto the beach to be finned, aware that people like us were watching and filming them (even though technically they were not doing anything illegal).  Instead, they hid the sharks in their boat and must have finned them in private, as no one got any footage this time.  However, we knew it happened, and it happened again this morning (Sunday), and it will continue to happen over and over, day in and day out, until something changes.

I am upset by what I've seen here, but I am also encouraged that after I shared the experience, friends and families have helped spread the story and are in support of stopping shark finning.  However you support this cause:  by giving shark fin soup, by encouraging your friends and families to do the same, or by adopting a shark online, it may seem like a small act that doesn't amount to much, by when aggregated,  every action counts.  And my heartfelt thanks to you!

Tags: marine megafauna, shark fin soup, shark finning

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