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Indonesia: Government Planning to Reduce Exports of Shark Fins

(Nov. 5, 2013)

According to a November 4, 2013, news report, Indonesia’s government is considering a plan to impose quotas on shark fishing. The goal is to limit the quantity of shark fins exported without overly harming the livelihoods of fishermen. Agus Dermawan, the director for fish conservation in the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, suggested on November 1 that a quota system would be difficult to enforce but might be the best option. (Govt Seeks Ways to Curb Shark Fin Exports, THE JAKARTA POST (Nov. 4, 2013).)

Indonesia is now one of the largest exporters of shark fins in the world, with the trade growing rapidly since 2000 and reaching 434 tons, with a value of about US$6 million, in 2012. (Id.) Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, and United Arab Emirates also participate heavily in the trade. (Finning and the Fin Trade, Shark Savers website (last visited Nov. 4, 2013).) Conservation organizations point out the problems with shark finning, in which just the fin of the shark is harvested and the fish itself is dumped back in the sea, where it cannot survive. According to Shark Savers, finning “is an incredibly improvident practice because 95% of the carcass, a source of protein, is wasted.” (Id.) Shark Savers, founded in 2007, describes its mission as “saving sharks and mantas through building awareness, education, and action.” (Our Mission, Shark Savers website (last visited Nov. 4, 2013).)

To adopt the quota plan, the government would issue a new regulation by the end of the year. Agus Dermawan stated that the Ministry is still in discussions with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences over the details of the regulation and which additional species of sharks should be placed on the country’s list of protected species. Once on the list, those species of sharks could still be caught and sold, but the quantity would be limited to the number set as a quota. A ministerial decree issued in May 2013 on protecting one species, whale shark,s adds the species to several others given full protection; their killing for any reason is outlawed. (Govt Seeks Ways to Curb Shark Fin Exports, supra; Ministerial Decree No. 18, 2013 [in Indonesian], Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries website.)

Indonesia‘s legislation in this area is related to its participation in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is referenced in the prologue to the Ministerial Decree. (Decree, supra; Text of the Convention, CITES website (last visited Nov. 4, 2013).) Indonesia acceded to the Convention on December 28, 1978. (List of Contracting Parties, CITES website (last visited Nov. 4, 2013).)

One fisherman claimed that the need to fish for shark, which is very lucrative, has gone up because climate change has made traditional catches scarce. He said, “I don’t care about the regulation. As long as the demand in the village market is still robust I will catch and sell sharks. … If you only aim to catch tuna nowadays you will often come back empty.” (Govt Seeks Ways to Curb Shark Fin Exports, supra.)

The Chairman of the Indonesian Fisheries Product Processing and Marketing Association, Thomas Darmawan, supported the idea of a quota system. He favored protecting endangered species of sharks but felt a total ban would be ineffective. He stated, “[e]ven if the government gave punitive sanctions, you would still have an illegal shark trade, which would be more difficult for the government to supervise.” He went on to state that the target is to cut down the shark catch while keeping in mind the need of the fishermen to earn a living. (Id.)