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Written By : ILIESA TORA. The alarming decline in shark population and the new trends in shark tourism are two factors that have prompted Government to work on placing a blanket ban on shark trade.
It plans to ban the sale of shark fin and other products derived from sharks caught in Fiji waters.
Department of Fisheries and Forests Permanent Secretary Commander Viliame Naupoto confirmed that a review of Fiji’s fisheries laws would include a ban on the trade of shark fins and products.
The review and new policy will be based on the turtle review and policy, with the only difference being that shark meat can still be eaten locally.
“We want to ban all trade of shark products in Fiji, in order to conserve this species. “Commander Naupoto said.
“We are reviewing the fisheries management law and in it we want to incorporate the ban of all shark meat and products in Fiji, especially the trade of shark fins.”
Commander Naupoto said the emerging market in shark tourism had huge potential in Fiji.
“Due to the emerging new trends in shark tourism in the country, sharks are more valuable to us alive than dead,” he said.
Beqa Adventure Divers director and shark conservationist Mike Neumann highlighted that their divers generated about $3 million in direct and indirect revenue that were all invested in Fiji.
“It has been shown that divers will prefer and pay a premium for destinations where they are likely to encounter sharks,” Mr Neumann said.
“Every tourist coming to Fiji, does so because of Fiji’s pristine marine environment.
If Fiji’s oceans die, the tourists will go somewhere else where the sea is not depleted.
They have a choice – we do not, we will end up losing an industry that contributes to 55 per cent of Fiji’s GDP.
If Fiji protects sharks, it will over time have a huge competitive advantage over other island states that do not.”
Commander Naupoto said the proposed ban would only affect trade and did not stop villagers from consuming shark meat.
Results of the review of the fisheries law will be submitted to Cabinet.
“Our paper should go to Cabinet with the intention of protecting sharks, we have circulated the paper once and it is in to its second circulation,” Commander Naupoto said.