KOCHI: The month of May often sees huge landing of sharks at Cochin harbour. The landings have steadily increased from 1.3 tonnes in 2007 to 381.2 tonnes in 2014 and reduced to 283.6 tonnes in 2015.
Across the country , sharks are not targeted due to the lack of a domestic market. The export markets, especially southeast Asian nations, seek shark fin. What troubled the sector was the addition of five species of sharks and two manta rays to CITES certification which meant that exporters would have to get a no-objection clearance from a government body .
Now, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) - the scientific authority for assessing the survival of a species and whether it should be traded - has cleared the sharks and rays for export. These include scalloped hammerhead shark Sphyrna lewini, great hammerhead shark Sphyrna mokarran, smooth hammerhead shark Sphyrna zygaena, oceanic whitetip shark, Carcharhinus longimanus, giant manta ray Manta birostris and reef manta ray Manta alfredi.
Recommending a precautionary approach, CMFRI has issued a recommendation to the government to permit export under certification subject to existing regulatory laws on shark fin trade. While shark species are found on the west coast, the rays are mostly caught on the east coast.
Welcoming the decision, seafood exporters said that a ban often doesn't work. "It is better to regulate and monitor.Fishermen will continue their catch and will find markets anyway . Instead, it would be better to allow sharks to be caught with caution against juvenile fishing and endangered species. There is a huge domestic market for the shark meat while Singapore and Hong Kong continue to be the export markets for fins," said Anwar Hashim, former president, Seafood Exporters Association of India.
There is no targeted fishery for hammerhead sharks which is just 0.73% of the total shark landings in India.