Wednesday, July 15, 2015

15/07/2015: FAO emphasises importance of shark conservation & management during Fisherman’s Week in Barbados
A bull shark being tagged (Image: Florida Fish and Wildlife)
As part of the activities for the Barbados National Union of Fisher Folk Organisation’s (BARNUFO) Fisherman’s Week 2015, which took place 29 June-2 July, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) hosted an educational and awareness session on Thursday, 2 July on the island’s shark fishery at the Fisheries Division, Princess Alice Highway, Barbados for stakeholders and fisher folk.  The session provided a forum for discussion on the species of sharks and rays found in Barbados’ waters, with focus on the species listed under Appendix II CITES. The moderators also discussed the identification of shark species and raised the possibility for the introduction of a NPOA - Sharks for the country. Some of the participants also took part in a survey, which will augment the sector’s data bank.

Sharks play an important role in maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems. Aside from contributing to the ecological sustainability of marine life, the shark species also contributes to social and economic sustainability.  However, due to their life-history characteristics, many species are vulnerable to the pressures of overfishing and have experienced rapid population decline.

In 1999, Member Countries of the FAO’s Committee on Fisheries (COFI) developed and adopted the International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (IPOA–Sharks). This plan recommends that Member Countries adopt a National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (NPOA-Sharks) if their vessels carry out directed fisheries for sharks or they regularly catch sharks in non-directed fisheries activities, such as is the case in Barbados.

In 2013, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) noted that very few countries in the Caribbean have implemented this internationally agreed plan. CITES also established international trade regulations under Appendix II for four species of shark: oceanic white-tip and the smooth, scalloped and great hammerhead sharks and all species of manta rays, which are found in the Wider Caribbean Region.
Shark egg-capsules, commonly known as 'mermaids' purses' (Image: shes_so_high)
Based on data obtained from a preliminary scoping exercise on the species, there is both a small directed fishery for sharks in Barbados and also numerous shark interactions in the pelagic long line fishery by catch, of which most of the meat and liver oil is either used or sold, while the fins and head are often discarded, with the teeth being utilised in a limited manner. Many individuals enjoy eating this tasty dish but should avoid consumption of those species under protection, such as the CITES listed species.
It is anticipated that a NPOA-Sharks for Barbados will contribute to more effective conservation and will assist in overcoming some of the management challenges associated with shark species.  This plan should also serve to improve the image and visibility of the fisher folk and may also prove beneficial to the tourism of the nation. During this eight month project, educational and informational material of the shark and ray species found in Barbados will be developed along with training activities and workshops targeted towards for fisher folk and other relevant stakeholders.

There are limited and inadequate management, infrastructure and legislative framework in the Caribbean to appropriately address the conservation and management of shark species. Currently, Antigua and Barbuda is the only country in the Caribbean to have developed a NPOA – Sharks.  The adoption of a  proactive approach to the development of a comprehensive management plan should also reduce the possibility of the export of fins to the Asian market which could rapidly cause further population decline as well as ensure the inclusion of additional species under the CITES regulations. A well-conceived fishery programme, accompanied by the relevant legal framework contributes to an industry that is economically viable and environmentally sustainable.

Visit the FAO fisheries site HERE.

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