Indonesia: Calls for Eco-Tourism as Alternative to Shark Exports

Fitri Jakarta Globe 10 Jun 13;

The habitat of sharks may further dwindle as shark fins continued to be in high demand in foreign restaurants.

WWF Indonesia data show that up to 150,000 sharks are killed each year for export to Hong Kong and China.

“This is a very concerning situation as Indonesia is now the number one exporter for sharks,” Wawan Ridwan, program director for marine species at WWF Indonesia, said during a Coral Triangle Day celebration event at Tanjung Karang Beach in Lombok on Sunday.

Wawan said WWF Indonesia continues to face difficulties in reducing shark hunting activities as sharks are not listed as a state-protected species in Indonesia.

The WWF lists Hong Kong as the world’s largest shark importer, with 80 percent of the world’s demand for shark fin consumption coming from the city. But Wawan said the Hong Kong government was working toward a total ban on shark consumption there.

“In 2015, there will be an official prohibition on Hong Kong shark consumption. We believe China is very strict in its law enforcement efforts. This is the case with corruption, as the Chinese government orders those convicted to be hanged. I imagine this will also apply with the shark consumption ban. If China says it should end, then it will be ended,” Wawan said.

He also expressed hopes that Indonesia, as the world’s largest shark exporter, would move to reduce and ultimately end all shark fishing activities. He said the administration in Raja Ampat, West Papua, has banned shark fishing, manta rays and several other species in Raja Ampat waters.

Raja Ampat has also turned areas in the region where sharks can be found into diving tourism spots. “Instead of allowing those sharks to be caught and killed for a meager Rp 1.3 million ($133) each, it is better to develop the area into a diving tourism destination, where each tourist will [instead] pay Rp 1 million to see those sharks,” Wawan said.

At the East Lombok Tanjung Luar Fish Auctions (TPI), hundreds of sharks are sold each month. They are subsequently exported to Taiwan and Japan for between Rp 200 million and Rp 400 million. Sudirman Saad, director general at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries overseeing the seas, coastal areas and small islands, attended the Coral Triangle Day event.

He said he supported Raja Ampat’s effort to develop eco-tourism destinations in shark habitats in the region, saying that shark fishing could be significantly reduced in Indonesia if others followed suit.

“This Coral Triangle Day 2013 event is celebrated by six member countries of the CTI: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste,” Sudirman said. He said it would be celebrated annually to promote the protection of the biodiversity of the Coral Triangle.

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