The Indian Coast Guard has seized a trawler that was carrying 250 baby endangered sharks and arrested seven fisherman aboard a vessel that was used for poaching marine species within Odisha’s Gahiramatha marine Sanctuary in the Kendrapara district.
The vessel had on board a combination of dead bull sharks, spot tails sharks and hammerhead sharks hidden away in its storage area. According to Coast Guard Commander Bhutanath Mahato, all seven fisherman were arrested under the provisions of the Wildlife Act , 1972.
Shark numbers in the ocean waters off the coast of Odisha have being rapidly declining as fisherman have being killing them by the hundreds to thousands due to unsustainable fishing practices and the poaching of sharks to be sold off for the shark-fin industry.
Speaking to Down To Earth, Secretary of the Wildlife Society of Odisha said, “Many traders from West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and other areas slyly take quintals of baby sharks from the state under the very noses of the fishery and forest officials. A large number of local fishermen earn extra money by supplying sharks clandestinely in fish packages.”
Due to the numbers rapidly declining, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has listed 10 shark species in Schedule-1 of the Wild Life Protection Act, deeming them the highest degree of protection possible. On top of that, the removal of shark fins on-board a ship is equivalent to the capture of a schedule-1 species.
Fishing is the biggest threat to sharks globally, particularly in waters that are less regulated than the U.S and Mexico. The importance of sharks cannot be overstated due to them being a keystone species. Sharks are at the top of the food chain in virtually every part of every ocean. In that role, they keep populations of other fish healthy and in proper proportion for their ecosystem.
Eco-systems in the past have collapsed due to the loss of sharks and in recent studies, areas that have had protections for sharks have not only seen shark species rebound, but almost every other species of marine life due to the balance sharks bring.