Petition calls for plan of action to protect sharks
A petition has been launched urging the government to adopt and enforce a National Plan of Action for Sharks, as is required by all fishing countries.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 1999 adopted a resolution which called for countries to volunteer to produce their national plan of action for sustainable fishing.
Through research carried out by Nature Trust (Malta) under the Malta Shark Research Programme and other international research conducted on Mediterranean sharks has confirmed over-fishing of sharks.
“Sharks mature at a late age and have a long gestation period. Therefore it is difficult to replenish depleted stocks without a management plan,” Graziella Cavlan, one of the researchers, said.
“I ask the nation to sign the petition, to show our government that sharks have their rightful place in our environment. Sharks have been around for over 400 million years, they have survived major catastrophes that changed our world, but they cannot survive the over-exploitation, that we have subjected them to over the last couple of decades.”
Although Malta does not have a plan of action to protect sharks, a plan drawn up by scientists, including Maltese, was produced in 2002, and could be the basis for a national plan, she said.
The Malta Shark Research Programme is a scientific research conducted by Nature Trust (Malta) and funded and supported by HSBC Bank Malta under HCEF (HSBC Cares for the Environment Fund).
Mrs Cavlan said the researchers had measured around 2,500 specimens of shark, mostly at the Valletta fishmarket.
The most numerous was the mazzola which consists of five species of shark.
Mazzola (squalus acanthias) in Malta, has a good market value. It is reasonably priced and a favourite among consumers. Do the consumers really know what they are eating? Some people don't grade mazzola as a shark let alone know that they might be purchasing a dying breed. The squalus acanthias was once an abundant species, now it is critically endangered.”
Mrs Cavlan said another concern in the Mediterranean was Finning, a gruesome process of killing a shark solely for its fins.
“There are laws that prevent animals being slaughtered in an inhumane manner. However sharks and fish in general don't seem to fit the bill. Sharks' fins are sliced off the bodies while the shark is still alive. The shark is then thrown back into the sea, still alive. The sharks then sink to the bottom because a shark cannot swim without its fins and it cannot survive without swimming. This is a billion dollar illegal industry second only to drugs.”
In Malta shark finning is not practised but Japanese boats with sharks' fins hanging to dry have been spotted by local fishermen.
Sharks are also hunted for their jaws, which can fetch thousands of euro.
“They may not be cute and cuddly, some might even be terrifying, sharks need our help, Please sign the petition to make a difference for our sharks,” Mrs Cavlan said.
The petition can be found on: