Draft conservation plan to be ready this year
India is in the final stages of preparing a national plan of action (NPOA) for conservation of sharks that will be integrated with similar plans drawn up by other countries in the Bay of Bengal region.
Protecting stakeholder interests will be a priority for the NPOA, according to Y.S. Yadava, director, Bay of Bengal Programme, Inter-Governmental Organisation (BOBP-IGO). Talking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the first National Mission Meeting on Conservation of Shark Species held here recently, Dr Yadava said the management plan for India would be based on sustainable harvesting of sharks.
The meeting organised by the Association of Deep Sea Going Artisanal Fishermen (ADSGAF) and South India Federation of Fishermen Societies (SIFFS) highlighted the threat faced by shark species due to overexploitation.
BOBP is preparing the NPOA for monitoring, control and surveillance of shark fisheries in India and other member countries, namely the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. “The Maldives has completed its NPOA and declared itself as a shark sanctuary. The country has imposed a total ban on shark fishing and exports. The small fisher population has either been rehabilitated in the tourism sector or given different gear to catch other fishes”, Dr. Yadav said.
He added that India, with its huge fisher population, would need a different approach. “We cannot have a plan or do anything that will affect the livelihood of fishers. Basically we have adopted a stakeholder approach. We have had stakeholder meetings in Gujarat and Thoothoor in Tamil Nadu, two of the three main shark fishing hubs in India,” Dr. Yadav said. A third meeting is scheduled to be held in Visakhapatnam in April or May.
“Based on the outcome of stakeholder meetings, we will prepare a draft plan of action and then convene a national-level meeting by mid-year to present the draft plan,” he said adding that a regional action plan on shark management was relevant because of the migratory nature of the species.
Dr. Yadav said the South East Asian Fisheries Development Centre, based in Bangkok, was developing a shark management plan for Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. “Once the BOBP and SEAFDC plans are ready, we will move into an integrated regional plan of action for the entire Bay of Bengal”.
BOBP, he added, was preparing a regional management plan for Hilsa covering Myanmar, Bangladesh and India. Simultaneously, efforts were on to develop a regional plan for mackerel with Maldives, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh as the key players.
The mission meeting condemned shark finning, the cruel practice of cutting the fins of live sharks and discarding the body at sea. In his presidential address at the mission meeting, B. Madhusoodana Kurup, Vice-Chancellor, Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, said shark finning was one of the major reasons for the decline in shark population in almost all oceans.
He observed that the low reproductive, growth and survival rate of sharks and the absence of data on the species made rehabilitation a challenging task.
E. Vivekanandan, Emeritus Scientist, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, said five to six commercially exploited shark species in India were ranked as most vulnerable.
He said regulation and self- discipline by fishers was important to sustain and protect sharks.
J. Vincent Jain, CEO, ADSGAF said fishers across India had reported a steady drop in shark landings since 2002. He mooted a national mission team comprising representatives of fishers, marine scientists, conservation groups, environmentalists and wildlife personnel for conservation and management of sharks.
Source: The Hindu, 17April2014