Patrols conducted under Operation Jodari, a partnership between Tanzania’s Multi-Agency Task Team, Sea Shepherd and FISH-i Africa, in January and February 2018, and the Indian Ocean Commission Programme Régional de Surveillance des Pêches (IOC-PRSP) in late 2017 have both found significant quantities of detached shark fins on board fishing vessels.

Shark finning’, the practice of discarding the shark carcass and retaining only the high value fin and tail is a violation of an Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) Resolution 17/05 and national licensing conditions.

Three of the seven fishing vessels inspected during the initial covert stage of Operation Jodari were found to have unattached shark fins on board. The BUAH NAGA NO 1, a Malaysian long liner, had a large number of shark fins as well as juvenile dolphins on board , which were packed and ready for export.  No carcasses were found on board, and the master and crew admitted that they had discarded them after removing the fins. Inspections of Chinese flagged longliners TAI HONG NO 1 and JIN SHENG NO 2 revealed large numbers of shark fins without carcasses. A smaller Tanzanian flagged vessel, SWABRU JAMIL, was found to be targeting sharks with the inspection. This inspection revealed a significant number of detached fins and tails, including those of the IUCN red-listed scalloped hammerhead, a species highly valued due to its high fin ray count.

The captain of Seychelles flagged longliner POSEIDON denied having any shark fins on board when his vessel was boarded for inspection in the Seychelles EEZ in November 2017. The subsequent inspection revealed a total of 729 kg of shark fins with no carcasses of shark found and no interaction with species of shark recorded in the logbook. Subsequent analysis undertaken by a Seychelles Fishing Authority scientist determined that the amount of shark fins found represented an approximate total mass of 14 580 kg of sharks, after evisceration. A fine amounting to approximately USD 40, 000 was paid for violations of the Seychelles fisheries legislation. The POSEIDON continues to be licensed and flagged by the Seychelles.

Nicholas Ntheketha, Chair of the FISH-i Africa Task Force commented, “We rarely see evidence of these shark-finning practices when vessels come into port. We are grateful for the opportunity afforded by the PSRP and Sea Shepherd patrols to inspect vessels at sea as this shines a light on many of the violations and illegalities that are taking place on our oceans.”

International efforts to stop shark finning have increased in recent years. October 2017 saw the introduction of a new conservation and management measure from the IOTC, the regional fishery management organisation that oversees authorizations of fishing vessels targeting tuna and tuna-like species in the Indian Ocean. IOTC Resolution 17/05 was developed in response to concerns over the poor reporting of shark catch data and the difficulty of identifying endangered and protected species of sharks from the fins alone. All sharks, with the exception of prohibited species oceanic whitetip and thresher sharks, are now required, when landed fresh, to have fins naturally attached. When sharks are frozen whilst the vessel is at sea then the ratio of carcases to fins is limited to 5% fins, to deter shark-finning practices.

Speaking on behalf of Stop Illegal Fishing Sandy Davies commented, “We have seen time and again that a high proportion of fishing vessel operators set out with the aim to get away with as much as they can. They show no respect for the law and no respect for the environment. Strong action is required to make sure that shark finning is stopped. This practice often involves significant cruelty to the sharks as they are thrown back into the sea without their fins and subsequently drown.”