FFOS blames THA reward fumble for culling of sharks in Tobago

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FFOS blames THA reward fumble for culling of sharks in Tobago

The group Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) is calling on Government to act quickly to protect what it says is actually a vulnerable but important member of the marine ecosystem – sharks.

In an official statement in which the lobby group says it was “dismayed by the recent surge in social media videos” highlighting the shark hunts, FFOS maintains it all could have been avoided had the THA not been “reckless and misguided” in handling a recent attack by a bull shark.

“This alarming activity may have been sparked by the ill-advised decision of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) to place a bounty on a bull shark following a regrettable incident where a tourist was attacked near Turtle Beach,” FFOS asserts.  “This action has not only failed to address the root causes of human-wildlife conflicts but has also triggered a harmful domino effect, resulting in the mass hunting of sharks, jeopardizing their already fragile populations.”

“This knee-jerk reaction of the THA has set a dangerous precedent that undermines conservation efforts aimed at protecting marine life, including sharks,” FFOS warns. “Despite the subsequent recall of the bounty, the damage has been done.”

FFOS says the current turn of events is even more troubling given that some shark populations are threatened with extinction.

“According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, it is now estimated that over one-third of sharks are threatened with extinction. This makes sharks one of the most threatened taxon in the marine environment, second only to Amphibians, at the global scale,” the lobby group said. “We need to do our part to protect these vulnerable and endangered species from the greed of mankind.”

FFOS says Government must step in and take certain critical steps to ensure sharks and other endangered species in the marine environment are protected.  It recommends full implementation of legislation approved by Cabinet in 2014 to ensure a national ban on shark finning.  It also calls for an immediate ban on all shark exports from Trinidad and Tobago.

“By implementing such a measure, we can demonstrate our commitment to marine conservation and ensure the long-term viability of our marine ecosystems,” FFOS says.

Other prohibitions FFOS suggests include the banning of all international fishing fleets from catching sharks in T&T waters; and the forbidding of the landing of all endangered sharks, particularly those protected by CITES— the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora— a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals from the threats of international trade.

FFOS also wants the development of science-based management strategies that prioritize the conservation of sharks, while also addressing legitimate concerns about public safety.