Sharks do not eat humans, we eat sharks. Yes, we the people of Bangladesh are also growing habit as shark-eater and exporter also.
Sharks are the top predators of the Ocean, they are like 'terminator' and they keep the oceanic ecosystem checked and balanced for the rest of us by keeping other marine predators in check. Most of the shark species are at the top of the oceanic food chain, and we humans are at the top of the World's food chain, we prey on everyone, included but not limited to sharks.
If people should have the right to eat 'whatever' they want, then I guess people should have the right to eat whatever they want to. But, please don't blame the beautiful sharks as man-eaters, if you are filled with no-brainer movies, then please know, the rare events of shark attack happens only when they confuse human with prey. Don't look at me; it's expert's opinion, google it and stay assured.
In Bangladesh's a total of 30 shark species is known till date. Our commercial and artisanal fishers hunt them for their fin, skin, internal organ, and meat for export and local use. At the end of the processing line, every body parts of sharks are being used to make products such as soup, leather, lubricants, and dried meat.
Unfortunately sharks are being caught mostly in juvenile age or as undersized youth in both targeted fishing and as by-catch in the Bay of Bengal. Protection and Conservation of Fish Act, 1950 does not have provision to manage shark harvesting in any forms (Sundarban is the exception, where harvesting shark is restricted by The Forest Act). So what’s going on is in fact over-exploitation of juvenile sharks.
It's because our shark hunters only ply the shallower regions of coastal Bay of Bengal (30 to 50 meter depth) and they have limitation of fishing gears also. Total catch is declining. Total catch of Bangladesh's shark fisheries was 5,162 ton in 2001 and then gradually declined to 3,933 ton in 2009.
Over exploitation of not-so-matured sharks is more harmful than other marine species. Once a population of shark is over exploited, the recovery is difficult. Because, gestation periods of this valuable member of marine ecosystem is very long and their growth rate is very slow too. The shortest gestation period we know is five months, for bonnethead shark.
Now, what we have to do? For Bangladesh, every potential conservation measure faces one common and omnipresent 'problem'. When we talk about any important species or habitat conservation, we see only 'insufficient data' is available. One notable approach is, before any conservation measure we need 'sufficient' data. But what if a species goes extinct before our scientists even know them?
If the over exploitation of undersized young sharks continues in the Bay of Bengal, the catch rate would decline more speedily in near future, and maybe we would lost some of the population even before 'sufficient data' is available.
Mohammad Arju: Journalist and Marine Conservationist. He can be reached at [email protected]