The Persian Gulf has become lucrative fishing territory. Sharks, a threatened species, are being hunted to be used in cooking and medicines. Local fishermen are being arrested, but the operation involves people much higher up the food chain.
LONDON — Iranians were informed in mid-May of another piece of endemic lawlessness in their country: illegal fishing of sharks in the Persian Gulf, with the catch destined for unspecified destinations and part of an ever bigger black market .
Authorities found a haul of 8,000 dead shark and shark fins in the port of Chabahar in south-east Iran, and 2,500 shark fins on the island of Kish, in the south-west of the country, in less than a week earlier in May. The chief environmental officer of the Sistan-and-Baluchestan province described the consignments, found in cold storage facilities, as the biggest so far.
Six fishermen were reported as arrested in Kish for the shark fins, and an unspecified number of suspects were separately identified in Chabahar, according to local media.
Fishermen sell sharks from the Persian Gulf at the fish market in Bandar Abbas, Iran.
But with such figures, it seems unlikely the arrests of a dozen or so people will end illegal fishing in the Persian Gulf when it is a big business worldwide. The daily Payam-e ma recently cited a former marine environments officer at the state fishing organization, Hamidreza Bargahi, as qualifying shark fishing as "a huge trade, with the participation of big, global firms and organizations. But all we hear is about the arrests of a few fishermen."
We can add another threat, shark fishing for tourism.
The sharks are used for purposes that go beyond making soup, including medicine, or in the production of pet foods or even snacks. Shark fishing in the past 50 years is said to have reduced shark numbers worldwide by 70%. Unofficial reports put the retail price of a kilogram of shark fin in Persian Gulf coastal states at U.S. $400, which somewhat explains the interest.
Big fish, big fines
The IUCN, an alliance of conservation groups, has categorized several shark species as threatened or gravely threatened with extinction, because of overfishing. Today, we can add another threat, shark fishing for tourism. While big fish caught this way are usually released back into the water, the ecological effects of the practice remain uncertain.
Shark fishing is banned in Iran, and the practice is liable to big fines. It is thus thought to be done at night. The main regional countries identified with the trade are India, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. In Iran's case, it is not clear if fished sharks are destined for those countries, and just how much shark fishing is even discovered or reported.
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