Peru’s Ministry of Production recently announced new measures banning the landing and transshipment of shark fins and headless or finless shark bodies in the country’s ports. This rule aims to discourage shark finning, a practice that has been a major factor in the precipitous decline of sharks worldwide.
“These are big strides for the shark fishery, since Peru is home to 68 species, from which 32 are highly commercially important,” said Juan Carlos Riveros, the scientific director of Oceana in Peru.
“These measures not only aim to regulate landings and halt destructive practices, such as finning,” Riveros explained, “but also encourage the monitoring and gathering of more scientific information related to these species, which are key for healthy oceans.”
Finning is the practice of cutting off a sharks’ fins and discarding the body, often while the shark is still alive, leaving it to drown, bleed to death, or be eaten by other marine animals. Sharks fins are primarily used to make shark fin soup, a luxury dish popular in some Asian countries.
Each year, as many as 73 million sharks are killed for the fin trade. In addition to being illegal in Peru, shark finning also increases overfishing and hampers species identification — making science-based management decisions more difficult.
The new measures also ban the use of harpoons to hunt sharks and other species used as bait. In Peru, harpoons are mainly used to target dolphins and other marine mammals, which in turn are used as bait in the shark fishery.
The announcement also includes measures to promote traceability in the shark supply chain. Some ports and beaches where small-scale fishers land and market their catches will be authorized as official landing points for sharks, and a Shark Landing Certificate will be created for the transportation and storage of these animals. The Marine Institute of Peru will carry out scientific monitoring of shark populations in order to advise the Ministry of Production on management decisions.
According to Riveros, even though these measures regulate shark landings and the shark fishery at national scale, there is still much to do regarding the trade in shark fins from foreign fleets.
“Nowadays, fishing inspections of foreign flag vessels' landings are not carried out in Peruvian ports,” Riveros said. “Therefore the Congress must ratify the ultimate international agreement against illegal fishing, which is the Agreement on Port State Measures.”
This UN treaty, dubbed the Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, has been signed by over 30 countries and the European Union — but not by Peru. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), illegal fishing cost Peru $360 million in 2015 alone.