The King of the Sea: Making Fiji a Shark Sanctuary (English)


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The King of the Sea: Making Fiji a Shark Sanctuary

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  • We the people of Fiji have lived in harmony with our environment for centuries. We have had a natural respect for our surroundings and in many parts of Fiji have ancestral gods that link us spiritually to the shark. Today we find ourselves existing in a world that views natural resources very differently to our forefathers. Anything that can be extracted, used and sold usually is, and only after there is nothing left, do we see with hindsight and the knowledge of the consequences we are left with, that perhaps that was a bad idea.With this in mind, we would like a few moments of your time to share some information about sharks. While some of you may not like sharks, some may even fear them – it is important to understand the role that they play in our oceans, on our reefs and to our economy.
  • Imagine a reef that has had no human disturbance whatsoever. There would be a perfect balance of all the varieties of reef animals. Sharks would be in relatively small numbers, but performing a crucial role at the very top of the food chain. The diagram here illustrates proportionally the types of fish that would be found on a pristine reef.When you take sharks out of the environment, it can have a knock on effect throughout the ecosystem. The absence of shark in the marine environment will allow lower predators such as groupers to increase in numbers leading to a reduction in the number of algal (seaweed) feeders such as parrotfish (because they are eaten by groupers) thus making the reef more vulnerable to disturbances that kills corals such as disease and pollution and shifts to algal dominated reefs. This is bad because when the algae is not controlled by the herbivorous fish, it covers the corals that make up the reef.
  • Sharks are different to many species of fish in our waters. They don’t come together and release millions of eggs like groupers. Sharks are more like dolphins, or whales in this way. They wait until they reach maturity from age 7 to sometimes 12 then they mate, get pregnant and give birth to live young or a few eggs. Some species here in Fiji have very specific routines for giving birth. Bull sharks and hammerheads both use the fresh water rivers to give birth to their young. Some use the mangroves for protection.Some evidence also suggests that reef associated sharks may return to the place they were born to give birth to their young, similar to turtles returning to the beach they hatched on to lay their eggs.
  • So, sharks are very important to us here in Fiji. They are culturally significant, worshiped as an ancestral god by some, they help maintain and healthy balance on our reefs and in our oceans, and they also bring significant financial benefits to our tourism industry. While not all of us necessarily like sharks, some may even fear them, we need to appreciate their role in our ocean environment and recognize the need to protect them from unsustainable fishing pressure before its too late.
  • Now that fishing technologies and ranges span every corner of the worlds oceans – there is nowhere to hide. Sharks were initially an unfortunate by-catch.As a result, reported declinesXXXXIn all species?? XXX have been as much as 70-80 percent globally.However, in more recent years, and more worryingly, the outlook for sharks does not look good….. This is because….next slide
  • Sharks are now not only an unfortunate by-catch, they are a targeted species. Targeted not for their meat, but specifically for their fins. To maximize space and profit, fishermen cut off the fins and throw the bodies overboard. As the demand for shark fin increases more and more sharks are being finned and left to suffocate like this on the seabed.
  • The two pectoral (arm) fins, tail and dorsal fins are taken which on average will weigh 5kg total. 9000 fins in this ONE warehouse, this ONE week would represent 2250 sharks. 11250kgs of fin with a value of approximately $1,125,000.00 FJD – $2,250,000.00 FJD.
  • Well, the answer is yes. And in large quantities. The following images were taken by Dr Demian Chapman who accompanied the Department of Fisheries enforcement officers on a trip to assess the situation here in Fiji.
  • Fins are purchased by traders from all over Fiji. They are bagged and some are shipped in containers, while others are sent to Nadi each week and loaded in 50KG pallets on the direct flight to Hong Kong from the 6 KNOWN warehouses in Suva. Traders today are only required to apply for an export permit. There is currently no quota for volume of shark fin that can be legally exported.
  • Fins are dried in racks like this next to a fire or hung out to dry in the sunshine.
  • Fins are purchased by traders from all over Fiji. They are bagged and some are shipped in containers, while others are sent to Nadi each week and loaded in 50KG pallets on the direct flight to Hong Kong from the 6 KNOWN warehouses in Suva. Traders today are only required to apply for an export permit. There is currently no quota for volume of shark fin that can be legally exported.
  • The King of the Sea: Making Fiji a Shark Sanctuary (English)

    1. The King of the Sea:Making Fiji a Shark Sanctuary 1
    2. Sharks have existed in the worlds oceans for around 400 million years. (Before, during and after Dinosaurs) Until recently, nothing hunted them.
    3. Sharks help maintain balanced, healthymarine resources by controlling fish and other marine life under them.
    4. Sharks do not give birth until they are 7 to 12years old, and then only usually have 1 to 10babies. This means that if they are fished,their numbers drop very quickly.Most other kinds of fish breed when they aremuch younger, and have hundreds of babies,so they are not so badly affected by fishing.
    5. DakuwaqaFijian people have strong traditional links to sharks.Dakuwaqa is still respected in Fijian mythology, as he protects his people from harm in the sea.His image survives in the art of new Fijian generations
    6. Shark Tourism Values in Fiji Many tourists come to Fiji to dive (12%), snorkel (60%) or swim Tourists love to see sharks! 96% of divers  sharks in top 3 things to see 42% of divers  sharks THE most important thing they had come to seeThe value of living sharks is a big part of the value of Fiji Tourism, a billion dollar industry, and of the FJ$150+ million/year earned for the country in tax.
    7. Live sharks are important to Fiji• Maintain a healthy balance on the reef and open ocean • Culturally significant • Provide tourism $ for the economy of Fiji 7
    8. Commercial fishing represents the greatest threat to sharks There are reported declines in shark populations of up to 70-80% globally.Morgan, A.C., 2010.Sharks: The State of the Science, 8Ocean Science Division, Pew Environment Group, Washington, DC
    9. Up to 73 million sharks are killed annually to support shark fin trading. The valueless bodies are usually discarded. Morgan, A.C., 2010. Sharks: The State of the Science, 9 Ocean Science Division, Pew Environment Group, Washington, DC
    10. How Shark Fins are used• Shredded cartilage in Shark Fin soup – primarily Chinese weddings • Remedies for arthritis - Chondroitin & Glucosamine tablets
    11. Sharks in Fiji 35 of these shark species spend most of their lives 58 species of shark have been along the coast and reefs of reported in Fiji Waters Fiji, and are often caught by Most are in danger of extinction commercial fishers. ENDANGERED Long term DATA DEFICIENT Oceanic residents VULNERABLE (complete life- cycle within Fiji)LEAST CONCERN NEAR THREATENED Move widely in region (visit Fiji reefs and coasts)
    12. Historical By-Catch Shark Fishery in Fiji In the past sharks were caught as By-catch of the Tuna Longline Fishery. Most were caught alive (blue line) but almost 90% were killed and their fins taken (red line). By-catch fins profit crew rather than boat owners Year # Sharks Number Number Percent observed caught Caught Finned caught dead Alive 1999 434 1 28 86% 2002 75 7 58 78% 2003 277 29 218 89% 2004 451 62 339 90% 2005 892 172 720 89%
    13. Targeted Shark FisheryIn the past few years the shark fishery has changed from by-catch to a specificallytargeted fishery, benefiting export firms, and numbers taken are increasing. On 29 March 2011 a film crew visited one of six Shark-fin and Sea Cucumber export warehouses in Suva
    14. Recent Targeted Shark Fin trade in Fiji Photos taken in Suva 29 March 2011 Traders claimed they could deliver ONE TONNE (1,000 Kg) of DRIED Shark FIN per month
    15. Recent Targeted Shark Fin trade in Fiji Photos taken in Suva 29 March 2011 Background: Over 100 bags, most of Beche de Mer (Sea Cucumber) with about 35 bags of shark fins. Foreground: 3 piles of shark fins with about 3,000 fins in each pile.About 9,000 fins,(= 2,250 sharks), plus 35 bags
    16. Species found in Shark Fin Warehouse in Fiji: Photos taken in Suva 29 March 2011. Black Tip Reef Shark Carcharhinus melanopterusOceanic Whitetip Shark Bull SharkCarcharhinus longimanus Carcharhinus leucas
    17. Sharks Fins Drying in Fiji Warehouse Oceanic Whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) Status: Vulnerable* Blue sharks (Prionace glauca) Status: Near Threatened* Silky sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis) Status: Near Threatened* * According to the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. Photo taken: 29 March 2011, Suva, Fiji
    18. The Fiji Shark Sanctuary Campaign Supporting the Fiji Government’s initiative to create a shark sanctuary across the entire Fiji EEZ, a first for the South Pacific.Campaign Aims:• An end to the trade in shark products, and to all commercial shark fishing in Fiji• Declaration of the Fijian EEZ as a shark sanctuary, where all shark species are protected
    19. Methods of the Campaign Research into Shark Densities, Habitats & Nurseries Supplying data to Government to strengthen conservation initiatives Media campaigns Securing support from Traditional Leaders, the GeneralPublic, the Tourism Industry, & Conservation Organisations
    20. Awareness RaisingMedia articles, District meetings, School visits, Posters,
    21. Logo for T shirts, Stickers Etc30 Minute Documentary
    22. Taking part in the Fiji Shark CampaignSupport enforcement of shark fishing banPosters: Please display prominentlyCommunities and Organisations: send Letters of Support toCORAL, PO Box 2558, Govt Bdgs, Suva, or Email hsykes@coral.orgIndividuals: Sign the pledge at
    23. The choice is oursMaroroya Save the na Qio Sharks of e Viti Fiji