I just came back from California. There, I saw that many Chinese restaurants had a notice at the entrance stating that “in this restaurant, no shark-fins are served”. I have seen similar notices in the last two years at the entrance of many Sushi restaurants abroad, stating “in this restaurant no bluefin tuna is used”. In both cases, such notices appeared to have been the results of pressure from certain organizations, which have abundant funds poured into their public relation campaigns. I discussed the recent move for banning shark fisheries with some Chinese restaurant owners and fishers. Those with whom I talked with all showed much dismay and some showed even anger for such pressures.
Recently, some countries have prohibiting the catching, holding and landing of all species of sharks. This would be very much related to the pressure given to the Chinese restaurant owners. I do understand the need to adopt restrictive measures for some of the shark species, mostly coastal, whose stocks have been very much depleted. However, it is not a scientific attitude to force moratorium throughout all of sharks over 400 species, many of which, particularly oceanic species, scientific evidences showed that stocks are at a healthy level.
In the late 1990s, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held a series of meetings to develop the International Plan of Action for sharks. I expressed in those meetings that Japanese eat many species of fish from head to tail, including bones, viscera and fins. Actually in many coastal fishing nations, fishing and eating shark has been a long tradition. In Japan for example, not only is the fresh meat eaten but the flesh is also now widely used as “surimi” for surimi products. Even its bones are used as medicine, health food and producing imitation shark fins.
Many people in the world eat fish but often only filleted flesh, and throw away the rest which means utilizing only 50 to 60 per cent of the fish. Besides, many fish caught which are less than a commercial size are entirely discarded to the sea. Are those people qualified to force full utilizations only in case of shark?
The IPOA for sharks was adopted and at present, full utilization of shark is common understanding of the world. As stated above, this has been practised in many coastal fishing nations for many centuries.
All the Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) have adopted regulations to prohibit the landings of shark fins only while discarding carcasses. In order to implement this, the regulations prohibit the landing of shark fins weighing more than 5 per cent of the total shark landing. According to recent scientific studies, the ratio of weight of fins to entire bodies of shark varies by species and size of shark but the average is more than 5 per cent. Therefore, if this 5 per cent rule is well implemented and observed, the entire shark have to be landed, regardless to whether the fins are physically attached to or detached from the bodies aboard. For this reason, it is difficult to understand why some people insist that fins should be physically attached to the body at landing, while giving so much unnecessary burden and risk of injuries to the fishers.
The further banning of shark fisheries is an absolute waste of resources. Sharks are often unwanted by-catch for tuna fisheries. If those sharks caught (including fins) can not be commercially sold, then the fishers have to discard all sharks caught. Or is the notice, ‘in this restaurant, no shark-fins are served’ suggesting fishers should keep the shark meat but throw away all fins into the sea?” Is it not the most foolish waste of natural resources?