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September 26, 2017

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Gov't to require fishermen to bring in sharks intact

The China Post news staff--The Fisheries Agency (FA) is slated to implement a new regulation demanding fishermen bring in captured sharks intact when they return to port and unload their catch.

The practice by the agency under the Council of Agriculture will make Taiwan the first Asian nation to ban dismembered sharks at its fishery ports to prevent shark finning and the waste of fishery resources, FA Director Sha Chih-yi (沙志一) pointed out Sunday.

The agency has begun educating fishermen on the new rules in the island's major ports such as Donggang (東港), Suao (蘇澳), Nanfangao (南方澳) and Cheng Kung (成功), etc., said Sha. The regulation will come into effect next year, violators face fines or even cancellation of their fishing licenses. The new rule will cover fishing operations in the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean according to the Fishery Laws.

Despite its lack of taste, shark fin is one of the most expensive and sought after food items in Chinese cuisine, dating back the Ming Dynasty. Shark fin soup is a constant fixture in Chinese tradition wedding banquets as a symbol of affluence.

Fishermen used to fin sharks, keep the valuable body part and throw the wounded animals back to the sea to die because shark meat was considered worthless in comparison to the fin, Sha pointed out. Although most fishermen have quit doing so as the prices of shark meat has climbed in recent years, the FA decided to push for new rules to further protect fishery resources.

Similar rules were adopted by the United States and Costa Rica, Sha was also quoted by the United Evening News as saying.

However, the fishing industry has claimed that the change will affect the freshness of catches and decrease profits.

According to Lin Yueh-ying, head of a fisherman's association in Suao, a major fishing port in northeastern Yilan County, fishermen currently dismember sharks at sea and pack the parts separately, which she said keeps catches fresher and allows for better prices.

Intact shark bodies take up too much space and will therefore decrease the amount of catch that can be transported back by about 20 percent, said Lin, adding that the price of shark fin is expected to increase once the law is implemented.

Conservation groups, on the other hand, praised the government's efforts to curb what they see as a cruel practice and one that is against the balance of the environment.

Chen Yu-min, an official with the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan, was quoted as highly recommending the new law.

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