Sharks are slow, really slow in their life, and graceful. So I assume, after one month passed since the good news came out, it is still going to be a shark-stant reaction.
After hearing this fin-tastic news Last month, shark-stantly I was like ‘Thailand is one of the top exporters of Shark products, if they can be the protector now, why not Bangladesh?’ This comparatively more preparedness of Bangladesh in shark-conservation was on my mind.
Thailand decided to add Whale Shark and other three rare marine wildlife species to the list of protected wildlife. The new wild animal species are whale shark (Rhincodon typus), Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni), dwarf fin whale (Balaenoptera omurai) and leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). Government spokesman Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd told the journalists these species will be protected under the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act of BE 2535.
By adding this species, Thailand increased the designated protected wild species number to 19. Under the law, it is prohibited to hunt, breed, possess or trade any of such species, except when done for scientific research with permission from authority.
Young conservationist Mr. Sirachai (Shin) Arunrugstichai from Center for Biodiversity based in Bangkok told us that, they are still pushing for protection of more species eg. Mobula and Rhinobatid rays. ‘Their population have been seriously suffered here!’, he says. (We’ve used one of Mr. Shin’s shark photo from Thai water in this post).
Now, Thailand, the country infamous for its destructive fishing practices and slavery in the marine fishery sector, has set a good example. Those of us, who care about the oceans, do it because we understand that oceans are actually the life of the earth. Talking about life, Sharks are among the many amazing creatures of the ocean. Being a top predator they keep the food web in check.
Earlier I was talking with Enamul Hoq PhD on this. With his years of experience in BFRI’s effort to suggest some sort of management steps for shark fisheries in Bangladesh, Mr. Hoq was saying, ‘as the scenario of whale shark other threatened shark species being caught and killed in the deep see does not come national sphere in Bangladesh, the concern is almost non-existent’.
If one would say that majority of the Bangladeshi people actually don’t seem to know that Sharks even exist in our waters, it might not be wrong. It certainly is not in the media, nor in the general curriculum. Except for estuarine fishers reporting bites by ‘Kamot’ (Bull shark) once upon a time, none have heard of shark bites in the country. Those who went in recent years to Cox’s Bazar, the longest beach in world, have seen the sculpture of Sharks in the Kolatoli point. Those who have cared to visit the museum of ‘Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute’ in the same township might even have seen a few preserved Shark bodies too.
The difference between those bodies and the sculptures is only the blood on the teeth in the sculptures, which the Shark bodies in the museum do not have. If one cares even more and visits the Cox’s Bazar fish landing station, the only blood that will be seen is when the Sharks are cut for their fins, skins and meat, the blood will not certainly be in their teeth!
Sharks are in vulnerable condition worldwide because of the fin trade. Shark fin has high demand worldwide for preparing soup. Bangladesh has a vast ocean area and it has at least 30 shark species. Local markets of shark have very low demand. Sharks are consumed here by some minor and tribal communities. Most of the sharks are exported from Bangladesh to Japan, Korea, Thailand, Singapore and other Asian countries.
Unfortunately, Fish Act of Bangladesh has no provisions restricting shark fishing. As a result sharks are the victims of over exploitation. Although forestry laws limit shark fishing in Sundarban but it’s not enough, because its territorial limitation of its jurisdiction.
Just look into this news! Under the Forest Act, Coastguards and officials of East Wing of Sundarban Forest Division recovered eight dead sharks of rare species… from four mechanised boats at Dublarchar in the Sundarban. This is it. Sharks are here to be recovered, not poached, and finned and to be exported.
Thinking out loud, I’d like to say its’ time to at least broaden the territorial mandate of the Forest Act over banning Shark fishing from all coastal waters and deep see in Bangladesh, and none the less, remove the blood spots from the shark sculptures in Kolatoli.
Fahmida Khalique Nitu teaches Zoology at National University of Bangladesh and affiliated with Save Our Sea as a Research Associate. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org