Indonesia: Whale sharks rescued from captivity in Maluku

The Jakarta Post 28 May 16;

Officials from the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry and environmentalists have rescued whale sharks being kept in a floating cage in Maluku by a Singapore-based businessman, who allegedly intended to sell them to China.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said in Jakarta on Friday that the fish were immediately released into the open sea after they were discovered in a floating fish cage owned by Hendrik, who was not present when the site was raided.

The whale shark is listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Susi said.

The rescue operation was jointly conducted by ministry officials and Wildlife Conservation Society ( WCS ) activists. The case is under police investigation and no suspects have been named.

Under the Fisheries Law, anyone caught mistreating protected animals could face six years’ imprisonment and a Rp 1.5 billion ( US$110,000 ) fine.

The WCS has reported 22 cases of marine wildlife crimes since 2014, country director Noviar Andayani said.

She said the whale shark population continued to fall because of poaching.

Traffickers Busted in Indonesia, Whale Sharks Released Back to the Wild
Posted by Wildlife Conservation Society in Ocean Views on May 29, 2016
National Geographic

Two whale sharks, shown here swimming in a netted pool, were recovered as part of an operation to prevent the illegal trade of large marine animals. Photo ©Paul Hilton for WCS.

Kasumba Island, Indonesia

Indonesian government agencies, supported by the Wildlife Crimes Unit (WCU) of the Wildlife Conservation Society, this week confiscated two illegally caught whale sharks from a major supplier of large marine megafauna to the international wildlife trade.

The whale sharks were being kept in submerged pens. Once the animals were discovered by officials on May 26, Indonesian authorities arrested the suspected traffickers and the sharks were released back into the wild unharmed.

The bust followed an 18-month investigation into a sophisticated operation that the WCU was first alerted to in late 2014. The ongoing investigation is being led by Indonesia’s Ministry for Marine Affairs and Fisheries and includes the Ambon and Labuan Lombok’s Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Monitoring Taskforce and the Maritime Patrol from the Maluku Police.

WCU investigations over the last few months have suggested that the suspects illegally caught large marine megafauna (whale sharks, manta rays, cetaceans) for sale to facilities being built in China and elsewhere in SE Asia.

The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is listed as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). International trade of whale sharks is regulated under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).

The arrest is testament to the dedication of the Indonesian government, the work of the WCU, and the partnerships that the we have been building across Indonesia to combat illegal trade in Indonesia’s threatened marine megafauna. This year alone WCU has supported 7 marine cases involving manta plates, sea shells, sea turtles, and whale sharks.

While we are grateful for the success, these cases remind us that we must continue to be vigilant.

In this instance, the suspects had recommendation letters from government authorities that allowed them to collect and breed ornamental fish. They were applying for permits to be a conservation institution that will allow them to capture, breed, and export whale sharks, dolphin, and manta but this had not yet been granted.

Under Indonesian law and regulations, whale sharks are a protected species and are not classified as ornamental fish. Indonesia Fisheries Minister Decree No. 18/2013 designates the whale shark as a protected species throughout the country’s nearly 6 million square kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

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