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India bans shark 'finning' to protect species

Aug 27, 2013

Worldwide, sharks are in sharp decline, with some species' numbers now 10 per cent of what they were three decades ago.

India has banned hunting sharks for their fins in a move to protect the species from a slow death. The ghastly practice of “finning” involves slicing off a shark's fins and throwing it back into the waters. Unable to move or hunt, the victims of this booming global trade die an inevitable death from starvation all to feed the palate mainly of people in China where shark fin soup is considered a delicacy.

Under the Environment Ministry's new policy, announced on Monday, fishermen now found with hauls including detatched fins risk up to seven years in prison for hunting an endangered species since identifying species by fins alone is difficult.

Worldwide, sharks are in sharp decline, with some species' numbers now 10 per cent of what they were three decades ago. Their demise threatens the health of ocean ecosystems, experts say, as the top predators are key to keeping fish and turtle populations in check. Tens of millions are caught every year.

India is the world's second-largest shark-catching nation behind Indonesia, with the two countries accounting for 20 per cent of yearly shark catches, according to a report by the international wildlife trade monitoring agency TRAFFIC.

Most Indian fishermen catch sharks primarily for food, though they also export the bones and fins abroad. Those fins will now have to be removed once the sharks are on shore.

Last year, Indian fishermen exported $4.8 million in shark fins to China, less than half the $11.3 million in 2010 exports despite steady demand, according to data from India's Marine Products Export Development Authority.

"Fishermen are saying the numbers of sharks they've been able to catch has definitely come down," said C Samyukta of Humane Society International.

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