The Japanese transshipment vessel Satsuma was carrying more than 1,500 lb of shark fins. (Photo: wcpfc/Pew/FIS)
Japanese ship fined as part of anti-shark fishing efforts
Friday, February 24, 2012, 23:00 (GMT + 9)
The Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA) has stepped up its efforts to enforce the country’s new shark fishing ban.
The government has thus far seized thousands of pounds of shark fins, skins, carcasses and fishing gear and fined the Japanese tuna transshipment vessel Satsuma USD 125,000; this is the first fine issued under the fisheries law that went into force in late 2011. The Satsuma carried over 60,000 lb of shark carcasses and more than 1,500 lb of shark fins, explained enforcement officer Marcella Tarkwon.
"The fine was based on it being the first offense and the value of the shark on board," she said, Marianas Variety reports.
MIMRA issued a violation notice and the vessel promptly paid the fine, she continued.
The new law bans shark fishing in the 750,000 sqmi of the country’s 200-mi exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
"It doesn’t matter where the sharks were caught," Authority Director Glen Joseph said. "If you have shark on board, you are in violation of the law."
The Marshall Islands began by confiscating gear and shark fins and putting commercial and local fishers on notice that they would be fined next time.
So far in 2012, Tarkwon said, enforcement teams have boarded dozens of longline fishing boats and transshipment vessels in Majuro and found that almost all of them had shark fins on board.
"We’ve sent notices (about the law) to all agents," Tarkwon said. "They are responsible to let the vessels know."
The Authority burns any confiscated fins.
A week following the initial check, a visit to these same vessels found "the vessels clean, with no sign of sharks," Tarkwon told.
Joseph noted that while Palau and the Marshall Islands have set shark-fishing bans, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), which covers a sizeable ocean area between these two nations, has not.
"It’s important for the Federated States of Micronesia to do the same because if we don’t have a level playing field, shark fishing operators will look to the FSM," he said.
Senator Joseph Urusemal of Yap, a state in Micronesia, will soon introduce a resolution to ban shark fishing that could be approved before 2013, Joseph added.
Demand for shark fins has been burgeoning in recent years. Shark fin soup is considered a delicacy in Asia, and demand has been increasing along with the region’s middle classes, AFP reports.
The Pew Environment Group estimates more than 70 million sharks are killed each year for their fins, leaving as much as a third of open-water species near extinction.
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