Friday, 3 February 2012

Is Ecuador doing enough to limit shark take?

There have been a couple of interesting articles springing up across the internet over the last couple of days, bringing with them the ubiquitous 'likes' and whooops of joy from pseudo-satisfied readers on the ever burgeoning social network.
But how new are the efforts alluded to in these articles? How many sharks will be saved? This article on the International Institute for Sustainable Development site highlights the recent development by OSPESCA nations who have agreed to a multilateral approach to the problem of finning and passed a law prohibiting the finning of sharks.
But wait, before you press the like (or even worse the share) button, take some time to read the article, particularly the paragraph that states 'Furthermore, exports from or imports into SICA countries of fins not attached to a body must be accompanyied by a document from the competent authority in the country of origin, certifying that it is not the product of finning'. Oh dear!!! If anyone is unfamiliar with latin american gang politics, due to the normality of the extended family structure within latino society, it is most likely that any boat captain will have corruptible contact within the enforcement agencies. So this add on paragraph will only serve to increment opportunities in corrpution, otherwise known in Europe as a 'loophole' similar to the one we cleverly structured around the 5% law.
Then this article throws Colombia into the mix, saying it too has agreed to work with Costa Rica on prevention of shark finning.
Meanwhile, Ecuador sits quietly below (geographically, if not morally) having already regulated against shark finning back in 2007. Decreto 486 prohibited the landing of directed fishing of sharks, with all shark having to be landed whole. Fins are allowed to be commercialised under a licensing system, lo and behold exactly as in the OSPESCA nations pact.

Personally having worked in Ecuador since 2005 and being closely involved with marine conservation there, I have not seen the slightest reduction of sharks landed on any beach in Ecuador before or after Decreto 486 and I can only assume that the OSPESCA agreement will work about as well as trying to pick a lock with recently caught mackerel.
It is astounding to think that given the latin amercian love affair with corruption, that anyone could think that making any kind of law with such easy opportunity for flagrant disregard would do any good at all, unless of course such activity was created with the sole aim of appeasing the green (blue?) lobby.
This document by the Shark Specialist Group has some useful and telling histories of Shark Finning Law over recent years. A read of it will leave you unsurprised as to why the shark fin trade continues unabated, and where fins-on law has been successful has not reduced shark take from the ocean, but has resulted only in this.

No comments: