If the new government policy, which prohibits the removal of shark fins on board a vessel, is implemented, the rampant and illegal hunting of sharks along the AP coast could become a thing of the past, said activists. Hundreds of sharks are being hunted for their fins which are used in the preparation of the Chinese delicacy shark fin soup.
Experts said to avoid getting caught, the fins of sharks captured are removed on the vessel itself and the de-finned sharks are thrown back into the sea, which eventually kills them. De-finning is considered as a major cause for the decline in the shark population worldwide.
This practice has led to difficulties in enforcing the provisions of Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 as it becomes difficult to identify the species of sharks from the fins alone, without the corresponding carcass, from which the fins have been detached.
The new policy of the ministry of environment and forests states that any possession of shark fins that are not naturally attached to the body of the shark, would amount to "hunting" of a Schedule I species. The policy calls for concerted action and implementation by the state governments concerned through appropriate legislative, enforcement and other measures, activists said.
"We need to create extensive awareness among the fishermen. Everyday we find sharks being slaughtered for their fins. Earlier, they were using dolphins as a prey to catch sharks," said Pradeep Nath, founder president, Visakha Society for Protection and Care of Animals.
The fins are sold for anywhere between Rs 200 to Rs 2,000 a kg and the price depends on the catch, he added. In fact, there are fisher folks who specifically hunt for sharks because of the huge overseas market. "The legislation will help us curb this cruelty. A ban on export of shark fins is needed. But the trade is happening under cover also," said Nath.
Experts attributed the situation to lax enforcement. "There is a need to strictly implement holidays for fishing. Fishing is not allowed during the mating season but the ground reality is a stark contrast," said K Sridhar, Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Kakinada.