Cole Bay, 22 October 2018, A video showing a group of men heavily mutilating and finning a live shark was posted on Facebook. The recoding was allegedly made in the waters of Curacao and shows a group of 5 men, who have apparently caught a shark on a fishing line, repeatedly stabbing it in the head and slicing of the tail while the animal is still alive.
“The total lack of respect for marine life displayed by these men is shocking” says Tadzio Bervoets, dedicated shark conservationist and chair of the Shark Committee of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance. “Sharks play an essential role in our oceans, as top predators they regulate the whole ecosystem. We should be thankful we have sharks in our waters as they keep our reefs healthy and full of fish. But here we see a helpless animal left to die a gruesome death while people cheer and laugh.”
Shark Finning, the slicing off, of a shark’s fins and discarding the body at sea, is a cruel and wasteful practice that has been banned in most of the world’s fisheries. Curacao has signed on to international legislation banning finning in its waters several years ago (through ICCAT fisheries laws). Furthermore in 2016, during a Caribbean shark conservation meeting on Sint Maarten the government of Curacao vowed to pass legislation to create a shark sanctuary in their waters which protect sharks from human exploitation. However, to date, no such measures have been taken.
As large predators, sharks are key contributors to healthy marine ecosystems, adding to their biodiversity and durable functioning. The presence of diverse and abundant shark populations indicates the marine system is in a good ecological state. And moreover, the presence of large characteristic species forms a valuable commercial asset for Caribbean communities as an attraction for dive tourists. Shocking images and videos of shark fishing and finning on Curacao have been circulating on social media over the last couple of years, repeatedly causing a public outcry.
“In 2015, the DCNA launches the Save Our Sharks on all Dutch Caribbean islands and the Netherlands.” says Bervoets “The project worked towards protecting declining shark populations by improving knowledge about the sharks in our waters, get better protective legislation and educate people about the importance of shark conservation. Many positive results were obtained, including the declaration of several protected areas, and even regional protection of 9 species of sharks and rays. However, this video shows us a lot of work remains to be done in legislation and control but most of all in education. People need to understand sharks are worth so much more alive!”